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THE BLACK IMAGE
OTHER POPULAR NOVELS
— BY —
WARD, LOCK & CO., Limited.
In variously priced editions.
THE LOST PARCHMENT.
THK MYSTERY QUEEN.
THE SOLITARY FARM.
THE THIRTEENTH GUEST.
THE SILENT SIGNAL.
THE RED BICYCLE.
THE GREY DOCTOR.
" Melicent Hurst and the goddess Hecate."
The Black Image] IFronfisPiccc
Tilt Myitery oj a Hansom Cab," " The Red bicycle,'' elc.
WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
LONDON, MELBOURNE AXD TORONTO
I. — THE LEGEND.
II. — THE OMEN .
III. — TROUBLE
IV. — STILL A MYSTERY .
V. — SCANDAL
VI. — THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS
VII. — AN EXPLANATION .
VIII. — THE CURSE OF HECATE .
IX. — A NINE days' wonder .
X. — melicent's vow .
XI. — SMALL NOTHINGS .
XII. — toby's uncle
XIV. — THE SHADOW OF EVIL .
XV.— ACCIDENTS ,
XVI. — MRS. print's ADVICE
XVII. DIPLOMACY .
XVIII. — A SURPRISE .
XIX. — jum's_^story .
XX. — LADY GIBSON'S STORY ,
XXI.- PART OF THE TRUTH
XXII. — THE SECRET OF HECATE
XXIII. — NEMESIS
XXIV. — THE WHOLE TRUTH
THE BLACK IMAGE.
VERY impressive, quite delightful, really
unique," gushed Lady Gibson, putting
up her lorgnette, only to qualify her
praise with a shrug. " But how very, very like
" Without tombstones," corrected the Squire,
who disapproved of the description as applied to
his favourite haunt.
" Oh, really, you know, ^Ir. Hurst, that statue
over there looks just like a dinky tombstone, put
up to some dear, dead thing, with gold brushing her
bosom and all that Browning kind of poetry."
" It is an image of Hecate, Lady Gibson."
"How \ei"y interesting! Hecate! Hecate!
Where have I met her ? Oh, yes ! Some one in
'Macbeth/ isn't she ? Dear Shakespeare ; so ver^'
sweet, you know I "
" Hecate is the Queen of Ghosts and Shades in
Greek mythology-," explained the Squire's brother,
who was the encyclopaedia of the family.
" Ghosts ! Shades ! " said Lady Gibson flippantly.
" Is there any real difference between the two,
Mr. Ralph ? "
8 THE BLACK IMAGE.
The stout, genial man laughed loudly in his
obtrusive way. " You have me ; you have me,"
he admitted ; " but, as a matter of fact, that statue
was erected by Sir Amyas Hurst in the reign of the
first James, for — for " — he hesitated a trifle — " well,
for necromantic purposes."
" Invoking the dead, he means," interpreted the
Squire, seeing that his guest was puzzled by the
" Ah, yes, exactly ; just what I said. A cemetery,
a charnel-house, a graveyard."
Although Hurst and his brother objected to the
words, the same aptly described the place. It did
indeed resemble a cemetery. From where the
three stood on the ivy-clothed and moss-grown
terrace, stretched an oblong space of ground,
surrounded by lofty walls of black brick, looking
all the more dreary for lack of creeping plants to
hide their bareness. Right and left, even to the
terminal wall, were double rows of sombre cypress-
trees, so tall, grim and solemn as to almost exclude
the sunlight. At the end of the oblong grew yew-
trees, old and imposing, while in the centre of this
funereal grove — as it truly was — stood a life-sized
statue of Hecate, cast in lead and painted coal-black.
The sinister goddess, with the crescent moon in
her hair, was draped in loosely-flowing robes, and
advanced one foot, as though about to descend the
broken steps of the platform on which she stood.
Her left arm was extended rigidly downward, with
its hand grasping a scroll, Avhile the right arm, raised
aloft, had the open palm turned towards the house,
as if in salutation: Or perhaps, it might be — as
Hurst explained — that a benediction was intended.
In direct contrast to the mournful aspect of the
place, where even the closely-shorn grass lacked
vivid colour.^were the three people standing on the
THE LEGEND. 9
terrace. The men wore flannels, and Lady Gibson
looked quite virginal in an aiiy chiffon creation from
Paris, which had cost more than she liked to admit,
even to her extravagant self. Although elderly,
she was smart, up-to-date, and artificially youthful;
invariably presenting herself to an astonished world
as an ingenue. Painted and powdered, padded out,
squeezed in, touched up, and fashionably coiffured,
she looked a trifle over thirty in the daytime, and
just twenty years of age at night, when the lights
had pink shades. As she had reached fifty, this
was something of a feat.
The Squire resembled his guest in some ways,
being a dry chip of a man, as thin and short as his
brother was tall and stout. His face was as nature
intended it to be, although he wore a blonde wig
and his teeth were false. He dressed youthfully,
and affected a jaunty demeanour, which cost him
dear because of gout and rheumatism. Both
Hurst and Lady Gibson \vere quite desperate in
trying to regain their vanished youth, and on the
whole succeeded very creditably. Without such
efforts they would have been cast long since on the
rubbish heap of old age.
As for Ralph Hurst, with his heavy figure and
rolling gait, he was too positively a philosopher
to indulge in an unequal duel with Father Time.
His rotund shape, his round, ruddy face, clean-
shaven as that of a monk, his keen grey eyes and
plentiful white locks, showed that he was content
to grow old gracefully. And in dress he was the
reverse of his brother, being as indifferent to what
he wore as the Squire was particular. Creased and
somewhat soiled flannels, a dilapidated straw hat,
and down-at-heel dancing shoes, characterised one
brother, while a spotless white garb, a crimson
cummerbund, neat brown boots, and a panama
10 THE BLACK IMAGE.
indicated the particularity of the other. Edgar
smoked a cigarette, trifled with a scented hand-
kerchief, and used a monocle while he twisted his
smart moustache. Ralph indulged in a dingy pipe,
had a book sticking out of his pocket, and ruffled
his hair into an untidy mop, when the conversation
became unusually interesting. The younger man
was of the pundit caste ; the elder a follower of
Epicurus. It was a fraternal exhibition of Bohemia
" You don't object to having tea here, Lady
Gibson ? " asked the Squire.
" In the Sanctuary," supplemented Ralph, and
joining in the conversation in his blundering fashion,
for Edgar liked to have the limelight all to himself.
"Oh, that's what it's called, I suppose? How
perfectly charming and m^rsterious ! Tea here ?
Why not ? So Arcadian, you know. How suggestive
of the Garden of Sleep some one wrote ages ago.
And Melicent can tell us the legend of the Hecate
creature, when the tea arrives. By the way " — she
swept the Sanctuaiy with her lorgnette vivaciously
— " where is Melicent ? "
" With I^Iiles," said Ralph, again joining in.
" Can you imagine the two being apart for a single
moment ? "
" They will be when they many — and for many
moments, if I knov\' anything of matrimony. Lovers
are all very well, but married people " Here
Lady Gibson shrugged, in Vv'hat she considered her
inimitable way, and twirled round to shake her
lorgnette in the Squire's face. " You naughty man,
to leave Sylvia alone with those who don't want her.
She should be with you, if what Mr. Ralph says
is to be believed."
" Sylvia's mother supplies the place of Sylvia,"
rdplied the Squire gallantly.
THE LEGEND. it
" Thanks for the compliment ; but she shouldn't.
Mothers-in-law, both off and on the stage, are
" Mine will be an exception." Hurst kissed her
gloved hand and bowed stiffly, while Ralph smiled
ironically at this complimenting of the frivolous
and elderly. The sight of mutton dressed as
lamb tickled him immensely, and with some
difficulty he turned a natural laugh into a
" Why so sad ? " asked Lady Gibson gaily, as
they descended the steps.
" Can you ask ? My brother has been engaged
for the last three hours to 3'our charming daughter.
Miles is the property of my niece Melicent. But I,
mjr dear lady " He imitated the famous shrug
cle\'erly and sighed again.
" There's Mademoiselle Clarice, you know," she
suggested maliciously, " that teacher in the village,
though what she teaches I don't know."
" Oh, she's my brother's protegee, not mine."
Hurst frowned. " I explained to you all about
Mam'zel Clarice \\-hen you were here last, Lady
Gibson," he said stiffly, " she is the daughter of my
old tutor, who died ages ago. He married a French
wife, and had this one daughter. After the mother
died — she went to li\-e in Paris when her husband
passed away — the daughter came to ask for my
help, being penniless. I got her the post of governess
in the Serbery Girls' School, three miles away."
" Yes, I know," said Lady Gibson suspiciously.
" But why doesn't she live at Serberj,* instead of in
Grenacer ? "
•' A whim." Hurst shrugged his spare shoulders.
" She goes to and fro on a motor-bicycle, and rides
' Edgar gave her the motor-bicycle," said
12 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Ralph significantly. " He can't do enough for the
" Girl ? I haven't seen her, of course, but —
girl ? "
" She's thirty, if you call that a girl's age," snapped
the Squire, who was growing restive, " and I do
what I can for her, as my old tutor did much for me.
Her name's Brown," he added, somewhat unneces-
sarily, " but she's called Mam'zel Clarice by every
" Mademoiselle Clarice," corrected Lady Gibson.
" No, Mam'zel Clarice. We are not very good
French scholars in these parts."
Lady Gibson said no more, as the Squire was too
good a match for her daughter for her to risk a
quarrel. But she doubted Mam'zel Clarice, the more
so because she had not seen her. With a mental
resolve to question Mrs. Print, the housekeeper,
about this foreigner, Lady Gibson briskly turned
the conversation, and waved her lorgnette towards
" Here come Melicent and Sylvia. ! "
" And Miles Darch," said the irrepressible Ralph,
in his heavy, pertinacious way.
The three who appeared on the terrace were as
young and good-looking as the others were elderly
and plain. Melicent was dainty, tiny and fragile,
brown-haired, brown-eyed and alluringly attractive,
while Sylvia, a tall brunette, looked cold, statuesque
and imposingly handsome. Miles, the barrister
engaged to the Squire's only child, had no excessive
pretensions to being an Apollo. He was of the fair,
clear-skinned Saxon type, heavily built and muscular,
well-groomed and smart in his comfortable suit of
grey flannel. His calm e^'es and firm mouth showed
that he was one who could be depended upon in
time of trouble. Not that there had been any demand
THE LEGEND 13
upon his reserves of strength in this direction, for
hitherto the stream of his existence had passed
through flowering meadows under a sunny sky.
And, indeed, the hves of all present had been more
or less easy-going, save that of Lady Gibson, who
confessed to the crumpled rose-leaf of her husband's
death. Not that she mourned the event greatly,
although she always made capital out of it. He
had not left her well off, and that really was a trial.
However, now that Syh-ia M'as to marry the wealthy
Squire, all would be well. Of course, Sylvia objected
to the engagement, as she loved some one else. So
ridiculous, thought the scheming mother, seeing
that the some one else hadn't a penny and was
merely a shabby young doctor with a limited
" Here we are, dad ! " cried MeHcent, dancing
gaily down the steps, " hungry as I don't know
what. Oh ! " — she stopped short — " where's the
tea ? What a howling shame it isn't ready ! "
"My dear child, how — you — do — talk," said
Lady Gibson, feeling it her duty to be shocked.
" I hope Sylvia will improve your speech when she
takes the place of your lamented mother."
" No one can take the place of my mother,"
replied the girl coldly, and retorting in the same
way. " How — you — do — talk, Lady Gibson. Sylvia
and I are good friends, and I hope will continue so ;
but none of the maternal business, thank you veiy
much," and she swept an ironical curtsey.
Lady Gibson looked daggers, but Sylvia smiled
in a chilly way. She was fond of Melicent, who
had been to school with her and held her mother
at arm's length for the same reason that Edith
Dombey resented Mrs. Skewton's soHcitude. For
Lady Gibson had also been carrying the girl here,
there and everywhere in the hope of getting her a
14 THE BLACK IMAGE.
rich husband. She had put her up to sale, as it
were, and now that she was sold, smiled as constantly
as Sylvia frowned. The girl objected to being an
odalisque, and hated her mother for having made
her one. Also she disapproved of her parent's
would-be juvenile flirtations, for I^dy Gibson
likewise resembled Mrs. Ske\vton in her desire to
look young and be adored as if she really was
young. The pair were ill-matched, and would have
been better apart ; but Sylvia did not wish the
parting to come about by marriage with Edgar
Hurst, in spite of his wealth and undeniable position
as Lord of Grenacer Manor. Still, prudence
counselled silence for the moment, so she merely
smiled. But, like her mother's shrug, that smile
Ralph broke the awkward silence which followed
Melicent's tart speech. " I say, here's Jum," he
cried jovially, as an active, lean lad darted down
the steps of the terrace to carry out a laden tea-
traJ^ arrange tables and chairs and settle the ritual
of the meal with the celerity of lightning.
" And who is Jum ? " asked Lady Gibson, glad
of the interruption. " That boy ; a page. Oh,
yes ! But the name." She shrugged. " Dear
" I gave it to him," said Melicent, settling down
to play hostess. " Jumbo, I christened him, because
he isn't a bit like an elephant. Sugar, or no sugar ?
Don't all speak at once."
" Dear child," said Lady Gibson, with a wry
smile, and accepting tea from the attentive Squire,
" what an extraordinary sense of humour you have.
If I may make a remark, I think this Jum, as you
call him, is more like a mosquito than an
^Melicent made a face, and her lover prevented her
THE LEGEND. 15
from answering by taking that duty upon himself.
" Darts about, doesn't he, Lady Gibson ? A
dragon-fly with his blue suit and bright buttons."
" He looks like one of those dirty^ sharp little boys
who sell newspapers."
" That's just what he is — or rather was," said
Hurst, dismissing Jum into the house with a glance.
" Mrs. Print, my housekeeper, found him standing
in London and brought him down."
" You are altogether too philanthropic, my dear
Mr. Hurst," said Lady Gibson languidly. "He
may be the son of a burglar, and who knows but
what he may admit his father into the house to
" I'll run the risk," said the Squire dryly. He
found Lady Gibson something of a handful at
" Really an awful name," murmured the lady,
with a shrug.
" As bad as Toby," hinted Miles, and Lady
Gibson's eyebrows went up, while Sylvia's pale face
grew pink. For " Toby " was the pet name of the
shabby young doctor who aspired to the Squire's
" Ah, you're thinking of Punch and his dear little
dog," retorted Lady Gibson. " What imagination."
" I am noted for it, so is Melicent."
" Ah ! well, suppose Melicent exercises hers in
the right way."
" In my direction," said Darch coolly. " Melicent,
try and imagine I am a saint."
" Oh, there are limits even to dear Melicent 's
imagination. Now the Squire "
" Don't say that I am a saint," interrupted
Hurst, with a flourish of his scented handker-
chief. " I have no opinion of saints. They are
i6 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Uncle Ralph is the nearest approach to a saint
we have in the family," said Melicent dryly.
" My dear girl," retorted her uncle, laughing in
his jovial way, " I am only a saint hke the serpent
in the bamboo."
" What's that, Uncle Ralph ? "
" Why, the serpent is kept straight so long as it is
in the bamboo, so I am a saint — if 3rou like to call
me so — while I stay within the four walls of my
library. And as a saint "
" You're not interesting," finished Lady GibsoQ
smartly. " Sinners are much more picturesque.
And it is about one I wish Melicent to speak."
" What do you mean ? " The girl looked
Lady Gibson waved her lorgnette towards the
Hecate statue. " Tell me about Sir Amyas Hurst,
who erected that."
" Ah, there is no imagination about that story,"
said the girl seriously. " The legend is as true as
taxes, and as Barkis says, ' Nothin' can be
" I don't know any one called Barkis," said Lady
Gibson, who had never read " David Copperfield, '
" nor do I know Sir Amyas. Tell me about
" Yes, do, Melicent," urged Miles, lighting a
cigarette. " I don't know the yarn."
Melicent glanced round and saw that every one
was in the humour for the story, even her father
and uncle, who knew it more or less well. And
certainly the repetition of the legend would be
more acceptable to the company than Lady Gibson's
inane chatter. Sylvia, still, cold and as silent as
ever, glanced towards the black imxage standing so
grim and menacing on its squat platform. Composed
as she was, the sight of its gloom amidst the yews
THE LEGEND. 17
and cypress-trees made her shiver — a rare sign of
emotion with her. Somehow it seemed as though
the statue was one of Fate — of Destiny — of Nemesis.
There was danger in its looks and attitude. Un-
imaginative as Sylvia was, it seemed to her as
though, at any moment, this sinister Hecate might
unroll the scroll she held in her hand to read there-
from some curse which would blight the place
and those present. Again she shivered, and Melicent
" Yes, Sylvia", I feel as you do. There is some-
thing dreadful about that image which frightens
me. It means danger and doom."
" Pooh, child," said her father, indulgently,
" that's nonsense."
" Pure nonsense," chimed in Ralph. " The
Hursts have always been lucky. Why should the
luck change ? "
" It will when the hand closes ; that hand which
Hecate extends towards the house," and all present
looked to where she pointed significantly.
" Ah, that's part of the legend, I suppose," said
Lady Gibson, quite unimpressed, for she was by
no means sensiti\'e, save where her own well-being
was concerned. " Go on, dear, I'm on fire to hear
the sweet story."
"It's anything but sweet," retorted Melicent
tartly, for the speaker always said the wrong thing
at the wrong time. " Sir Amyas lived in the reign
of James the First, and was a great traveller for
those days. He was for some time in Nuremberg,
and from that city brought back a wife."
" I can see her," cried Lady Gibson derisively,
" a fat Teutonic Frau."
" You do see her," said MeHcent emphatically,
" for there she is. The statue was modelled from
Dame Hurst, who was reported to be a witch. And
i8 THE BLACK IMAGE.
during the outcry against witches, which was so
great in those days, she was burnt."
" Oh ! " Sylvia turned pale. " How horrible.''
" So Sir Amy as thought, for he loved his German
wife dearly. But he was also believed to know
something of the Black Art ; to have a Familiar
and practise weird rites. In some way he managed
to escape arrest ; people said by bribery in high
quarters. Anyhow, he continued to live quietly
here, and had that statue cast in lead to com-
memorate his dead wife. It was painted black to
show that he mourned her constantly."
" She must have been an ugly woman, and the
black paint doesn't improve her in the least," said
Lady Gibson superciliously. " Dear me, what odd
fancies men take. I dare say they were the same
silly darlings then as they are now."
No one commented on this interesting interruption,
so Melicent continued impressively : "Sir Amjras
built these walls round the statue, planted the
yew and cypress-trees, and spent the most of his
days here. He called this place The Sanctuary,
and so it has been called ever since. Then " —
Melicent looked mysterious — " people began to
" This becomes interesting," murmured Miles,
opening his blue eyes. " I suppose Amyas sacrificed
these people to the manes of his wife. Go on
Melicent ; you freeze my blood."
" There is nothing to laugh at. Miles," she retorted
petulantly. "It is a very dreadful story, and
mysterious. People did disappear. They used to
come to the house — to this garden, and then — they
never came out again."
" Where were the detectives ? " said Lady Gibson,
shocked by this crude statement. " Surely notice
should have been given to the police ? "
THE LEGEND. 19
" There were no police to speak of in those days,"
said the Squire, with a laugh, " and even if there
had been, Sir Amyas was too clever to be caught.
In spite of his sinister reputation, he died in his bed
and escaped the law."
" He was reported to be a wizard, and had learned
wizard ways from his late wife," said Ralph lazily,
" but Edgar's wrong in saying that he died in his
bed, although right in stating that he escaped the
" I don't remember the legend vciy well," said
the Squire, firing up, „ but I am certain that I
" Wrong, my dear fellow, wholly wrong. Sir
Amyas disappeared in the same way as his
" And how did they disappear ? " asked Darch,
raising his eyebrows. " I want details. So far as
I can gather, they came to this place and — dis-
Melicent nodded. " That is all that is known,"
she said positively, " and Sir Amyas disappeared
in the same way."
" What way ? " asked Lady Gibson impatiently.
" Do explain."
" I can't. Sir Amyas got such a bad reputation
from people vanishing, that, as the law would do
nothing, the country people did. They came to
his house armed with bills and pitchforks and
scythes to kill our ancestor."
" He must have been something like Giles
Retz, a kind of Bluebeard," remarked the barrister
" You are quite right, ]\Iiles. That was his reputa-
tion. Sir Amyas sought refuge in this Sanctuary
when the mob assaulted the house and — dis-
20 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" He climbed over the wall/' suggested the Squire.
" No, father. He could not have done that, as
the peasants were all round the house. He entered
this place and — never came out."
" The devil took him away, maybe," said Ralph,
with a laugh.
" So rumour said."
" It's more likely that there is a secret outlet
from this place," murmured the barrister, looking
" No. For Sir Amyas's brother, who inherited
the property, searched, thinking that there might
be a secret passage in which his brother was con-
cealed. He found nothing and no one. Neither
were any of the other people who disappeared ever
discovered. The mystery has never been cleared
up to this day, and the statue still stands as it
stood then," said Melicent looking towards it.
" It ought to be pulled down," cried Lady Gibson
in her artless manner. " My dear Mr. Hurst, when
you marry Sylvia, destroy the statue and put up
one to your wife."
" That's impossible," said the Squire, while
Sylvia shivered at the suggestion, " for the statue
is connected with the luck of the Hursts. I am not
superstitious," he added gravely, " but I shrink
from taking such a step."
Ralph nodded. " Better let sleeping dogs lie,
eh, Edgar ? "
" But how is the statue connected with your
family luck ? " asked Darch, rising to walk round
the image and inspect it carefully.
" Melicent will explain," said her father seriously.
" I have explained," said the girl quickly. " It
is stated that the luck of the Hursts will change
should the hand of the image close. As it is now
open, it is blessing the house and those in it. Should
THE LEGEND. 2i
it close, it would become a fist, as you can see, and
then would menace the Hursts."
" How can a statue close its hand ? " asked Miles
" How did the statue walk in Mozart's opera
' Don Giovanne ' ? " she retorted.
" Oh, if you come to fairy tales, Melicent "
" It isn't a fairy tale," insisted the girl. " So
far we have had the best of luck. But I am sure
that one day the luck will change."
" And that will be "
" When the hand of Hecate closes and becomes a
MILES DARCH greatly preferred the country
to the town, firmly believing in the poet
Cowley's saying, that God made the first
and man the last. By compulsion rather than
choice he had become a barrister, for his father —
a Rutlandshire squire — had insisted that his son
should enter the legal profession. Miles, adopting
the rash policy of peace at any price, obeyed,
although his instincts were those of a country
gentleman. Unfortunately, he was a second son,
and not the heir to the family estate, but there was
compensation in the fact that from his deceased
mother he had inherited a comfortable income of
five hundred a year. He would rather have taken
a farm and enjoyed life as an agriculturist, for he
emied his elder brother in being viceroy of the
ancestral estate. But the peace-at-any-price mistake
— and it certainly was one — committed him to the
law. But not to the profits, as he jokingly said,
for so far his success as a pleader had not been
flattering to his vanity. But he comforted himself
with the reflection that he had not tried very hard
to become famous. |
The fact is, that, like many another man, over-
THE OMEN. 23
ruled by parental desires, Darch was a square peg
in a round hole, and was therefore uncomfortable.
He did his best to remedy the uneasy position by
living in the village of Grenacer, which was in
Essex, three miles from the town of Serbery and
thirty miles from the metropolis. It was his college
chum Horace Smith who afforded him the oppor-
tunity of doing this, for the young doctor — he was
the shabby suitor of Sylvia so greatly dishked by
Lady Gibson — had begun to practise in the district.
Smith had taken a roomy, old-fashioned house, too
expensive for his meagre purse, and had suggested
that his friend should share the same. As Miles
was tired of living in chambers, and learned that he
could go to town daily, he readily agreed. In thisr
way he gratified his rural instincts and helped the
doctor. With what Smith earned and Darch
possessed, the two did very well, even to acquiring
a small motor-car, which took Miles daily to catch
the London express to Serbery% and was used by
the doctor in his rounds, which were rather extensive.
Darch also took charge of the garden, and enjoyed
himself greatly in growing flowers and raising veget-
ables, wliile Smith looked after the house, ordered the
meals and saw that everything domestic was ship-
shape. The two young men were looked after by
Miss Robin, a quaint old lady of seventy, who was
not unlike the bird, her namesake. She was their
cook-housekeeper, and had a village girl under her,
as housemaid, parlourmaid, and general factotum.
These two women, together with a lad of sixteen,
who cleaned the car, drove it on occasions, ran
errands, and waited at table, completed the estab-
lishment. Everything went like clockwork in this
bachelor manage, for the two men were clever and
capable, knowing exactly what they wanted. Then
the inevitable serpent entered into their Paradise,
24 THE BLACK IMAGE.
which is a rather harsh way of saying that they fell
And the worst of it was that both were shot by
Cupid at the same time and under the same circum-
stances. Melicent returned from school at Brighton,
and Miles, being invited to dinner by the Squire,
who liked him, fell a victim to her fresh beauty.
On a later occasion Sylvia, who was Melicent 's
bosom school friend, paid her a visit, and at another
dinner, Smith fell in love with her. And as both
girls reciprocated the feelings of the young men,
the course of true love certainly should have run
smoothly. It did in the case of Melicent and her
law^'er, since the Squire, having ascertained Miles's
income and birth and position, approved of him as a
son-in-law. But Lady Gibson, when introduced to
Smith, disapproved of him immediately. He was
poor, he had a plebeian name ; his father was
only a moderately rich stockbroker from whom
he had no expectations, and his position, as a
struggling doctor, was — as she said — impossible.
So while Miles was able to see Melicent on all
and every occasion, Smith was prevented ever-
lastingly from enjoying the company of Sylvia.
This exclusion made him miserable, and he envied
the ease with which his friend's wooing was con-
ducted. For quite twelve months Miles lived in
heaven, while the doctor lived in the other place,
and although the first did his best to cheer up
the last, the last found small solace in the comfort-
ing of the first. The climax came when Darch,
on the morning of the day after the Squire's
proposal to Sylvia, broke the news to Smith. They
were at breakfast when the thunderbolt was
launched, but Darch permitted his friend to finish
his meal, as he had permitted him to have a decent
night's rest before launching it. Smith turned
THE OMEN. 25
pale, dropped his pipe and groaned while Miles
" I'm sorry, Toby, but it's true," he said, address-
ing the doctor by a name which had been given
him at Exeter College, as more appropriate to his
looks and character than the more classical Horace.
" Why didn't you tell me before ? " groaned Toby,
dropping into the well-worn saddle-back chair, near
" I wanted you to have a good night's rest and a
good breakfast. If I'd told you last night, you
wouldn't have slept, and you wouldn't have eaten."
" I'll never eat or sleep again ! "
Being in love himself. Miles expected this astound-
ing statement. " I knew it would hit you hard," he
" That confounded Squire "
" Gently, Toby. He's MeHcent's father and has
behaved decently to me."
" Sorry ! All the same, he's old enough to be
her father as well as Melicent's."
" And rich enough to be her husband — if you
" Of course I mean Sylvia. There's only one
' her ' in the world to mc." Smith picked up his
pipe and turned his miserable, handsome face to
Miles. " What's to be done ? "
" Nothing at present."
" You are very brave with another person's
.skin," observed Toby gloomily. " You seem to
forget that Hurst may marry her at any moment,
and then she will be lost to me."
" There's many a slip between the cup and the
" And ' the horse is the noblest of all animals.'
Hang your proverbs. They do not help me in the
least." Toby turned to look out of the window,
26 THE BLACK IMAGE.
where the result of Darch's hard work was visible
in a glorious display of summer flowers. " I wish
we'd never fallen in love," groaned the doctor.
" Speak for yourself, Toby."
But Toby refused to take this view. " We were so
jolly here, and were having such a good time as
pals. Now these girls come in to upset things."
" Lady Gibson has done that."
" The old harridan."
" Calling her names won't improve matters, Toby.
Come and sit down, and let us talk over things."
Smith returned to his saddle-back chair and
lighted his pipe with the air of a Christian martyr.
"It's all very well for you, Miles. Your future is
all cut and dried. You'll marry Melicent, take away
your five hundred a year, which helps to keep things
going here, and "
" Oh, if I marry I'll make some arrangement to
help you," interposed Darch hastily, for he was
too devoted to his chum to leave him in the
Smith shook his sleek red head. His hair was
rather red, and constituted one of Lady Gibson's
objections to the marriage with Sylvia, since she
always maintained that red-haired men were bad-
tempered. " I don't want you to do that, thanks
all the same. You'll require all your money to keep
up a home for Sylvia."
" Oh, she will inherit Thorswud Hall and the
acres around it and the income, so she'll be glad
to help you as I will."
Toby shook his head again. " If the Squire
marries Sylvia, things will alter, Miles. Suppose
there's a son and heir ! "
" Good Lord, man, don't look so far ahead."
" It's as well to be prepared for the worst. Miles."
" Well, I want Melicent and not the property,"
THE OMEN. 27
said Darch after a pause. " We can exist on my
income, and I'll buck into the law and make a
name for myself somehow, in a murder case
of the \\'orst ; that always means money and
fame to a smart counsel who gets the prisoner
"Then be my counsel. Miles, for I swear I'll
murder the Squire before he marries my girl."
" Don't talk nibbish, Toby. Let's look how things
stand. Hurst has five thousand a year, the Hall, and
any amount of land in this village. On his death
Melicent inherits the lot, and failing her, the propert}^
goes to Ralph. Not that he wants it, as he has a
small income and is wholly taken up with his books.
He's a good sort, is Uncle Ralph, and helped me to
get the Squire's consent to my engagement."
" Oh, he's all right," said Toby gloomily. " Ralph's
a decent old chap, though rather a bore with his
incessant information. Seems to like a dull life
among his books too, and only goes to London once
a month to attend book sales. But I don't see what
all this has to do with my loss of Sylvia."
" Well, it has much to do with it, if Hurst marries
" He shan't," said Smith fiercely. " I'll screw
his neck first."
'' Toby ! Toby ! "
" Oh, it's all very well repeating my name like a
cuckoo, but you're not in the soup as I am, Miles.
And I wonder at Sylvia ; she said she'd many no
one but me. Told me so a dozen times, and now "
Toby made a despairing gesture.
" Don't be too hard on the girl," advised Darch
gravely. " You know how her mother drives her."
" Oh, yes, I know. Sylvia told me how the old
Jezebel has hawked her about from pillar to post,
from Dan to Beersheba in the hope of getting a
28 THE BLACK IMAGE.
wealthy son-in-law to minister to her extravagance.
Well, she's got one now, and Sylvia's got a patched-
up old rake of a husband who "
" I never heard that the Squire was a rake,"
remonstrated the barrister.
" He's all that's bad," cried Smith vindictively,
" or he wouldn't want to become the husband of a
young girl like Sylvia, who is a flirt and a — well, I
won't call her names, bless her. She's driven to it.
But if she marries old Hurst I'll curse him, and then
he'll be as unlucky as he's been lucky."
" Then the hand will close," said Miles, trying to
interest this disconsolate lover in other things, and
thinking of the legend.
" What hand ? " Toby fell into the trap.
Miles related the weird story told by Melicent,
at which Smith scoffed. " I dare say it's rubbish,"
admitted the barrister, " but it impressed me."
" What tosh ! As if the hand of a leaden image
could close. Anyhow, it will ha\'e every reason
to close if Hurst marries Sylvia. I'll make it hot
" How can you ? " Darch stared.
" Well," said Smith slowly, " there's Mam'zel
Clarice, you know."
" Toby, that's tosh, as you said just now about
the legend. Hurst only assisted that poor creature
because she is his tutor's daughter. Report says
that he has behaved very well to her."
" Report doesn't know everything," snapped
Toby, whose usually sweet temper was sorely
ruffled. " I attended Mam'zel Clarice for a sore
throat, and when she mentioned the Squire and his
kindness, she gave me to understand that he meant
to be kinder still."
" In what way ? "
" In the marriage way."
THE OMEN. 29
"Do you mean to say that Hurst offered to marry
Miss Brown ? "
" Miss Brown, alias Mam'zel Clarice. So she gave
me to understand."
" It's impossible."
" Not more so than Hurst's marriage to Sylvia.
Should Mam'zel get to hear of that. Miles, there will
be trouble, and perhaps Lady Gibson will take
This time it was Darch who shook his head.
" Lady Gibson will never take offence, while there
is money to be gained. Hurst is rich and she won't
let him slip. I'm afraid that your scheme to make
trouble by bringing Mam'zel into the matter won't
" I wonder if Sylvia would run away with me ? "
" She might, and yet — the money."
Smith heaved a sigh. " I know. It would be a
shame to drag her down to my po\-erty. Yet I'll
plead with her, and if she will be content to be the
wife of a poor doctor and wait for better days, why
" Why not see the Squire and tell him that Sylvia
loves you ? " interrupted the lawyer, who had been
" He won't listen. Syhia's too beautiful for him
to surrender," said Toby bitterly. " Still, if I tell
him that Mam'zel Clarice "
Then the unexpected happened. As if in answer
to her name, the door of the sitting-room was dashed
open, and on the threshold appeared the very
woman in question. The young men rose and
stared at her as if she had been a ghost, for there
was something uncanny about her entrance at
this moment when her name was thus spoken.
Mam'zel seemed pleased by the startled looks of
the two, and entering swiftly, closed the door with
30 THE BLACK IMAGE.
a bang to wave her hand in a most dramatic
fashion. " Ah, yes. It is me ! " she declared,
ungrammatically enough, but with the air of a
So taken aback were the men by her unexpected
appearance that they continued to stare tongue-tied.
She was by no means unattractive to look at, for
although not beautiful, she possessed all the charm
of a Parisian woman. Her hair and eyes were dark,
her complexion rather sallow, but she had well-cut
features, excellent teeth and a perfect figure. This
last was attired in a rather bizarre dress of black
silk with vivid orange trimmings, and she wore a
transparent picture-hat adorned with feathers of
the same striking colour. Perfectly gloved and
booted, with her face flushed and her dangerous
black eyes sparkling, the prosaic English name of
Miss Brown suited her less than the picturesque
appellation of Mam'zel Clarice. She was evidently
in a towering passion, and looked like a fashionable
Ate. ready to throw the apple of discord into the
centre of the happy group under Squire Edgar
Hurst's roof-tree. And this — as appeared later —
was exactly what she had come to do. Meanwhile,
she merely looked impatiently at the young men,
who stared so hard.
" Ah, but J am a ghost, a speerit, that you look
so," she exclaimed impatiently, speaking with a
strong foreign accent, but carefully, so as to avoid
using French words, which she never did in talking
English. " Why do you not offer the chair. Fie !
It is not gallant."
" You have taken us by surprise. Miss Brown,"
said Darch, recovering himself and conducting her
to the saddle-back vacated by the astonished
" Ah, yis ; it is so, Mistar Darch. Yet you talk
THE OMEN. 31
of me. Is it not so ? " She looked from one to the
other, and settled herself comfortably in the chair.
" But I do fooHsh to ask. Talk you did. I hear
" Miss Brown, I-
No, no, no ! Not Mess Brouwn, doctar," she
interrupted viciously. " Mam'zel Clarice, did you
say when I come. The name they do call me in dis
village. Ah, well. Mam'zel Clarice, I am when I
do teach de girls in de school, though I am all
Eenglesh in my talk. Is it not so ? "
" Yes," said Darch, trying to stop the incessant
flow of her speech and endeavouring to learn why
she had come. " Do you wish to see the doctor,
Mam'zel ? For if so I can retire."
" Ah, but no. I weesh to see you and him."
She stretched out her hand to stop Darch from
leaving the room. " I know — and I haf come to hear
if what I do know is true."
" And that ? " questioned Smith, then suddenly
became enlightened. " By jove, I can guess. You
have heard that Hurst is engaged to Miss Gibson."
Mam'zel jumped up with a crimson face and blazing
eyes, screaming her answer in uncontrolled passion.
"It is a lie ; it is not so. To me — to me " — she
tapped her heaving breast imperatively — " Edgaar
is to me engaged."
The young men looked at one another. Darch
answered, as having the surer knowledge of the
truth. " Mr. Hurst became engaged to Miss Gibson
" No, I tell you ; it is not so. I well not haf it so.
But I will go to de Hall to speke to dis girl and I
will say "
" You can say nothing, for she is not at the Hall,"
interrupted Darch, preventing her from opening the
door, towards which she had darted unexpectedly.
32 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" She and her mother only came down for the day."
" Then I will see Edgaar. Ah, yis ! " she stamped.
" He deceive me ; he meke a fool of me. We shall
see ; we shall see."
" But, Mam'zel " began the doctor soothingly.
" Do not speke to me ; do not talk." She turned
on him like a fury. " I did hear you looved dis
girl ; dat you meke her your wife. And yet you
let her go. Ah, poltroon, you ; coward, you."
" Stop," said Miles authoritatively. " You
mustn't go on like this. Why have you come
here ? "
" Why ? " exclaimed the infuriated woman
violently. " I come because I do hear in the village
dat Edgaar ask dat girl to marry him, and I come
to ask if what dey speke of is true ? "
"It is true. What then ? "
" What then ? What then ? " Mam'zel turned
purple with increasing rage. " Why, then I will
stop dis marriage. I tell you dat Edgaar wish to
marry me — me, who now speke to you. When
I was but leetle, and he was study weeth my fader
he say I would be his leetle wife. I say dat again
when I come to ask for help from Paris. He is
mine ; he is mine."
" You had better tell the Squire that," said Smith,
hope springing up in his breast, for here was a new
and powerful ally.
Mam'zel, who had whirled herself into a seat,
now whirled out of it again. " I go to tell him.
He shall not marry dat girl. Nevar, ah, nevar ! "
and shaking her two fists in the air, she tore open
the door to dash out of the room tempestuously.
The two men looked at one another.
" The Squire is going to have a bad time," said
Toby with a chuckle, for he hoped that Mam'zel
would prevent the sacrifice of Sylvia.
THE OMEN. 33
"I'll follow her," said Darch hastily, going to the
door, which was still wide open. " I may be able
to throw oil on the troubled waters."
" Don't spoil my chance," urged the doctor, and
would have tried to stop his friend from going,
but that he was already prevented by a small boy,
who darted into the room unexpectedly. " You,
Jum," cried Smith, " what's up ? "
" Only a note from Miss Melicent," said Jum,
resplendent in a bright blue suit sparkling with
many buttons, and so restless that he resembled
a dragon-fly more than ever. " She wants to see
" Something's wrong at the Hall," murmured
Miles, who had already made himself acquainted
with the contents of the note.
" Trouble over the engagement to Sylvia ? " asked
Smith eagerly and with a gleam of hope in his eyes.
" No, Mehccnt doesn't say what is the matter.
She only asks me to come at once, as something is
wrong. Jumbo, do you know "
" Yes, sir," interrupted the alert lad before Darch
could finish his sentence. " The hand of the statue
" What's that ? " Darch could scarcely believe
" The hand of the statue in the garden's closed,"
repeated Jum patiently, and wondering why he was
required to give the information again.
The doctor laughed and rubbed his hands. " Then
the luck of the Squire is clean out, if your story is
to be believed, Miles," he said, with rglief.
" The hand closed ! " muttered Miles, mystified,
" It's a trick. Absurd ! "
AS it was Saturday, when Miles invariably
stayed at home and attended to his beloved
garden, he was easily able to obey Melicent's
unexpected summons. Smith was as curious as his
friend to learn the truth concerning the report
of the closed hand, but duty called him to his
patients. So he went his rounds in the motor, still
fuming over Sylvia's engagement, while Darch
strolled up to the Hall. He there expected to
find that the change of fortune foretold by the
clenched hand of the statue had already made a
beginning in the form of a stormy interview between
the Squire and the fiery Mam'zel Clarice. It might
be that there was some truth in the legend, although,
being very matter-of-fact, he could not bring himself
to credit the same. But that trouble in connection
with the engagement of Hurst to Sylvia should start
immediately the image gave the sign was certainly
an odd coincidence. The unexpected had happened
with a vengeance.
Grenacer was a pretty old-fashioned village of
no great size, consisting of many red-brick and
white-washed houses with tiled and thatched roofs.
In the centre was the village green, from which a
quartette of crooked streets branched to the four
points of the compass. At one end of the village a
small church of grey flint, with a square tower,
stood amidst many tombstones beside the narrow
stream. This swiftly flowing river — known as the
Gren — flowed in a half-circle round the hamlet,
past the Hall and into the flat meadow lands of the
surrounding country. The alluvdal soil was rich
with cornfields, pasture-lands, and vegetable gardens,
presenting a peaceful picture of prosperity, and
fining up the space between Grenacer and Serbery
three miles distant. The inhabitants of the village
were mostly agricultural labourers, knowing but
little of the world and its doings, as their interests
were entirely local. The railway from Serbery to
London, together with the coming and going of many
motor-cars, and the influx of summer visitors, had
certainly brought the villagers more into touch with
what was going on. But for the most part they
were wedded to their old customs, to their old ideas,
and obstinately refused to move with the times.
A more lethargic population with narrower thoughts
it would have been difficult to find, and they were
quite content with their somnolent existence. Think-
ing that what was good enough for their fathers was
good enough for them, they made no attempt
to improve, although both the Squire and
the Vicar had done their best to awaken them
from the slumber of centuries. On the whole,
Grenacer was a Rip van Winkle kind of locality,
in which nothing happened, or was likely to
Miles loved the place for this very indolence. After
the hurry and toil of London it was pleasant to
return to this quiet spot and take life easily. It
must be admitted that Darch did not do justice to
himself ; that he did not use his talents as he should
have used them, so that they rusted for lack of
36 THE BLACK IMAGE.
employment. Hitherto his Hfe had been too pleasant,
too easy and free from trouble, so that he was not
stimulated to exert himself in any way. Had he
lost Melicent, had he lost his income, he would
have been compelled to move in order to recover
what he had lost ; but having everything his own
way, he was in great danger of passing through life
as an idler and a slacker, Melicent, being of a more
restless and ambitious nature, tried to mo\'e him
from this complacency, but hitherto she had failed.
But the time was at hand when things were about
to change with him, and the closing of Hecate's
hand meant the coming of trouble, which was likely
to do him great good. At the moment Miles did
not know this, and strolled towards the Hall little
knowing that he was walking out of enen^ating
sunshine into the dark clouds of stimulating adver-
sity. Had he been told this he would have laughed
the suggestion to scorn, and would no more have
believed in such a prophecy than credited the
magic closing of the statue's hand. That it was
really closed he was obliged to believe, since Jumbo
was too shreM'd a lad to manufacture an easily dis-
proved lie. But Darch thought that there was
some trick in the matter, since it was ob^aously
impossible that a leaden image could voluntarily
clench its fist. And what the trick was, the young
man made up his mind to discover. For with the
discovery of the nature of the trick, the significance
of the legend about possible trouble would be done
away with. And the whole thing was so ridiculous
that Miles laughed himself to scorn for troubling
to seek the reason. Yet, since Melicent had
asked him to come to the Hall he felt, as a lover
should feel, that it was imperative to obey her
" Who first discovered that the hand of Hecate
was closed ? " he asked Jum, who ran beside him,
alert and bright-eyed.
" Mrs. Frint, sir. She went in to dust and
straighten out things in the master's study, and
opened the door leading into the garden."
" Why do you call that place where the image
stands a garden, when there is not a flower within
the four walls ? " asked Darch curiously.
" Oh, I know it's called the Sanctuary, sir. But
Mrs. Frint calls it the garden, so I say the same as
she says. Mr. Ralph told me I was wrong, and asked
me the same question as you have done, sir."
Miles looked more particularly at the boy's
freckled face and keen blue eyes, struck by the
educated way in which he spoke. " Who taught
you to talk in the way you do, Jum ? "
" Mr. Ralph, sir. I spoke very badly when Mrs.
Frint brought me from London, and Mr. Ralph was
\'exed. He made me speak properly, and I want
to learn, sir, so as to get on in the world. Mrs. Frint,
sir, by bringing me down here, has given me a
chance of being something better than I was, sir,
and I hope to take advantage of the chance. I'm
reading Smiles' 'Self-Help,' sir, and Mr. Ralph is
teaching me lots of things."
" Mr. Ralph is very kind, Jum. How old are
" Fourteen, sir ! "
" You seem to be a sharp lad. What do you think
of the closing of the hand ? "
Jum looked puzzled. " It's queer, Mr. Darch.
I don't know what to make of it, sir, unless, being
lead, some one has bent it."
" Ah ! I dare say you are righc. That solution
never occurred to me." Miles was struck by the
clever suggestion of the boy. " But who bent the
38 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" I don't know, sir, nor does any one else. The
Squire, Mr. Ralph and Miss Sylvia are all surprised.
And Mrs. Frint, sir, says it means trouble."
" Don't let Mrs. Print's imagination run away
with you, Jum. By the way, what is your real
name ? "
" Frederick Marr, sir."
" Well, Frederick, I am pleased that a lad like
you should try to improve yourself, and I shall do
what I can to assist Mr. Ralph in helping you."
Jum's ugly face beamed. "Thank you, sir;
you are kind."
Miles was quite interested in the boy, and saw
that he possessed brains and perseverance above
the common. He wondered that he had not noticed
this cleverness before, and promised himself to
forward the lad's aims. And indeed, remembering
how Melicent had rebuked him for his easy-going
ways, the barrister felt a certain sense of shame
when he learned how much more ambitious this
former street Arab was to get on than he was.
" You've taught me a lesson, Jum."
" Have I, sir ? " Jum looked frankly amazed.
" Yes ! Now run on ahead and tell Miss Melicent
that I am coming."
Jum sprang forward immediately and shot up the
axenue like an arrow from the bow, glittering all
over in the blazing July sunshine with his many
buttons. And at an untoward moment his few
simple words had taught Miles a lesson. The
barrister determined to follow this lowly example,
and make a better use of his capabilities. It was
odd that the hint should have been given to him
in this way and at such a moment, when more
serious things had to be considered. Miles did not
know exactly what to make of it. All he knew
was that in some \\'ay he meant to rouse himself
from his lotus-eating, and do his best to help his
fellow-mortals. And a chance to do so was at hand
now, since he might be able to solve the m3^stei-y
of the closed hand, and pacif}/ Melicent's mind
regarding the significance of the legend. With
this idea in his head, and anxious to get to work,
the young man quickened his pace and soon
emerged from the avenue into the space before
The building was of mellow red brick, of Tudor
architecture and wreathed in ivy, so that it looked
eminently picturesque. It was encircled by smooth
green lawns bright with bordering flower-beds, and
was girdled at a greater distance by thick woods,
finally ringed by a high wall of grey flint. Miles
let his eyes rest contentedly on this beautiful old
English home, and thought how happily he could
live there with Melicent, letting the world go by
and not troubling about anything. But these
dreams were a recurrence of his lotus-visions, which
Jum's chatter had urged him to cast aside. So
the young man shook himself free from the longing
for ease and idleness to spring up the steps and
ring the bell. Contrary to ordinaiy usage, Mrs.
Print appeared instead of the footman, and informed
him that she did so, as the Squire had called all the
serv-ants to his study to question them, concerning
the mystery of the Black Image.
■ " And I never was so took back in my born days,
Mr. Darch," cried Mrs. Print, who was stout and
comely and voluble, " as when I saw that hand
closed. You might have knocked me down with a
feather, and that ain't no easy task."
She ended with a jolly laugh, in spite of her obvious
perturbation, and ushered the young man into the
house. In a blue silk dress with cherry-coloured
ribbons, a lace cap, collar and cuffs \\'ith much
40 THE BLACK IMAGE.
substantial Victorian jewellery, the housekeeper
looked rather flamboyant. Miles wondered why the
Squire, w^ho was very particular, did not instruct
her to wear a less striking garb. But then he
remembered that Mrs. Print was a privileged
person, who had been with the Hurst family ever
since she was in her teens, and had acquired rather
independent ways. She had been lady's maid to
Melicent's mother ; she had nursed Melicent ; she
had married John Frint, the Squire's bailiff, who
was now dead, and for years had acted as an
autocratic housekeeper, trusted by the Squire and
liked by every one. If her taste in dress was rather
loud, as it assuredly was, no one minded that, so
long as everything went smoothly. And under her
firm guidance everything did. So being a valuable
servant, she was allowed much licence, of which
she took full advantage, although she never over-
stepped the mark so far as to call down reproof on
herself. Mrs. Frint was wise in her generation, and,
despite her oddities, knew her place.
" One moment," said Darch, stopping her at the
door of the Squire's study, just as she turned the
handle. " Has Mam'zel Clarice been here ? "
" Lor', no, sir. Whatever should she come here
for to-day, even though 'tis Saturda^r and she ain't
gone to Serbery ? "
*' She called on me this morning and said that she
was coming here."
" Like her imperence," cried Mrs. Frint, tossing
her head, so that the cherry-coloured ribbons in her
lace cap fluttered. " I never did hold with that gel,
sir, though why I should call her gel when she's
thirty, and more, if she's a day, I do not know. The
Squire spiles her, Mr. Darch, if you arsk me."
" It's his kind heart, Mrs. Frint, as she is the
daughter of his old tutor."
" I never liked that tutor, with his sneaking ways,
and I never Hked his wife, French and forrein as she
was, Mr. Darch. As to the gel, she set her cap at
the Squire when she come here arsking for help.
But Miss Sylvia's put her nose out of joint, not
that I hold with the Squire merrying again at his
age. But there, I'm forking scandal, sir, which ain't
She opened the door and ushered Miles into the
Squire's favourite room, which he termed his study.
The real library was the haunt of Ralph, and was
on the other side of the house, near the drawing-
room. The study had one door, through which
Miles was entering at the moment, and another
which led out into the Sanctuary, flanked by two
narrow windows. It was not a large room, and was
filled with old-fashioned furniture, consisting of a
table, a desk, a sofa and several chairs, all of
mahogany. On the red-papered walls were steel
engravings and trophies of arms, these last being
an inheritance from Hurst's father, who had a craze
for collecting weapons. There were mediaeval
swords, Afghan knives. Eastern daggers.Zulu assagais
and South Sea spears. In fact the place was quite
an armoury of warlike weapons, and although
Hurst had no liking for such militaiy things, he
let them remain where they were from habit. It
was strange with his fastidious tastes that he did
this, as these things gave an air of menace to the
room, and produced a somewhat uncomfortable
"I see the Squire's got the servants in the
garden," remarked Mrs. Print, misnaming the
Sanctuary, as Jum said that she always did. " Go
down to him there, sir, for I've got work to attend
to. You'll find Mr. Ralph and Miss Sylvia there
42 THE BLACK IMAGE.
When the housekeeper went out of one door,
Miles went out of the other, and found himself
in the gloomy vSanctuary to which there was no
entrance save through the study. Hurst was
there, with his brother on one side of him and
Melicent on the other, questioning the servants,
who crowded the place to the number of six. Just
as Darch arrived, the examination evidently came
to an end, for the servants, being dismissed, filed
past the new-comer, through the study and into
the back parts of the house. Miles walked towards
the statue to be welcomed by the three, who stood
near the platform, looking all equally puzzled.
And Miles, in spite of being forewarned, was puzzled
also, when he saw that the right hand of the
image was distinctly clenched in a menacing way.
It looked as though it was about to throw
something at the house, which directly faced it.
Perhaps bad luck, as Miles immediately said with
a shrug and a smile, to show that he did not
mean his observation to be taken seriously. But
Melicent promptly accepted the suggestion in all
" It docs mean bad luck," she insisted anxiously.
" Don't be silly, child," said Hurst sharply,
" How can a leaden image like that do mischief ?
Nonsense ! Nonsense ! Nonsense ! "
" I agree," remarked Ralph, laying hold of the
ladder, which had been reared against the statue
to examine the hand. " We are all making a
mountain out of a mole-hill."
" Nonsense," said the Squire again. " You are
not, Ralph, and I am not. Only the servants talk
so foolishly because that silly legend is current in
the house and village. But they are all uneducated
people, not like Melicent, who has been to school,
and should know better."
" She doesn't mean what she says," said Allies
" Oh, yes, she does," rejoined the girl tartly.
" The legend says that when the hand is closed
bad luck will come to the Hursts. And you can't
deny. Miles, that the hand is closed."
" W'hat about the bad luck ? Anything wrong
as yet ? "
'' There is Lime enough for that to come," said
" My dear." Ralph laid his great hand on his
niece's shoulder, " you are obsessed by the legend.
Put it out of your mind."
" How can I, Uncle Ralph, when I see, as you
can see, that the hand is closed ? "
"Oh, that's a trick," said Darch promptly.
" What do you mean ? " asked the Squire
excitedly. " Can you explain."
" That clever lad Jum explained, I rather think.
He gave me an idea. But before I tell it to you,
let me have a look at the hand."
Ralph nodded in a satisfied way. " I'm glad to
hear you talk like that, my boy. Explain and set
]\Iehcent's mind at rest," and with a jovial laugh
designed to comfort the girl, he held the ladder
up, which Darch nimbly mounted.
" The hand is certainly closed," remarked Miles,
somewhat unnecessarily, when making his ex-
amination. " The fingers and thumb are bent
inward towards the palm, with the thumb
" We've seen that for ourselves," snapped the
Squire. " What is your explanation, or rather
Jum's explanation ? "
"He suggests that some one has bent the fingers
into the present shape."
Ralph laughed loudly and slapped his massive
44 THE^BLACK IMAGE.
thigh. " Good for Jum. I ahvays did think
that boy was clever, and so took an interest in
" Much too great an interest," said Hurst
" You can't say that, Edgar, now that Jum
has solved the mystery. If I hadn't stimulated his
sharp brains, he would not have hit upon the
" How can the fingers be bent ? " asked Mehcent,
not anxious to give up her weird idea of supernatural
" Easily enough," said Miles from the ladder on
which he was perched. " The statue is of lead, and
it only requires a little force to twist the fingers
and the hand."
" Try if you can do so," she said, getting on to
the platform on which the image stood, and standing
Miles did tiy, and laboured hard to open the
hand by bending the fingers outward. But this he
could not do, and was not even successful with the
thumb, which, being on the outside of the fingers,
was more easily dealt with. In spite of his efforts
the hand remained obstinately closed. " All the
same, I beHeve the boy's explanation is the right
" It isn't," cried the girl obstinately. " If the
hand could be closed in that way it could be opened
in that way. The statue has done it itself, as a sign
that misfortune is coming to us."
" Mehcent," said her father, exasperated by this
childish speech, " how can an educated girl like
you talk such absolute rubbish ? A thing of lead
and paint cannot act as if it were alive."
" Amyas Hurst was a wizard and put a spell on it."
" Are you crazy ? "
" I don't know what I am," said Melicent, who
was pale and upset. "All I do know is that^ the
hand is closed and that misfortune is coming."
" And I say that Jum's explanation is correct.
The hand has been closed by some one bending the
lead, as a practical joke," said Miles, jumping
down from the ladder. " Hum ! I wonder if Jum
is the joker."
" If he were, he would hardly explain his joke,"
said Ralph dryly.
" I'll see him' and make him explain," said the
Squire, moving towards the house. " He went on
your errand, Melicent, while I was examining the
serv^ants. All have been questioned save Jum—
silly name that it is. The boy is clever enough and
mischievous enough to do what Miles suggests.
If he has done this, he'll go back to London straight
" Oh, no, father."
" Oh, yes. How dare the boy meddle with the
" We haven't proved that he has done so yet,"
said Miles, with a shrug and rather sorry that he
had suggested the boy's implication in the business,
" and if you turn him out, Smith and I will take
him as our page. He is too promising a lad to be
allowed to go back to the gutter."
" It's the boy's doing," insisted the Squire,
who never let go of an idea when it entered his
obstinate brain. " I'm sure he bent the fingers
in the way you described. No one else could have
The four were in the study by this time, and it
looked gloomy after the bright sunshine out-of-doors.
Mehcent, particularly prone to the effects of light
and shade, felt more than ever the approach of
some misfortune, and annoyed her father by
46 THE BLACK IMAGE.
repeating her conviction that bad luck was coming
to the house.
" Oh, rubbish," he said angrily. " Who can
bring it ? "
The answer came from Mam'zel Clarice, who
flung the door \aolently open as Hurst asked the
STILL A MYSTERY.
HAVING entered the room as violently as she
had done the one in his own house, Miles
expected that Mam'zel Clarice would behave
as tempestuously. But, for the moment, although
labouring under violent excitement, she restrained
herself, great as was evidently the effort to do so.
She now carried a small bag and a crimson sunshade,
but still wore the black gown and picture-hat with
their orange-hued trimmings. Hurst frowned im-
patiently when he saw her pale face and brilliant
eyes, but did not seem to be in any way afraid
of the woman. This led Darch to surmise that
Mam'zel Clarice had told a cock-and-bull story
regarding the attentions of the Squire to her
charming but uncontrolled self.
" I can't see you at present, Miss Brown. I am
engaged," said Hurst, advancing to open again the
door which she had closed.
The woman's face flushed, her eyes sparkled, and
her nostrils dilated; all signs of a coming storm.
Yet she still held her passions in check. " I will
not kip you ver' long, Mistar Hurst. It is important
what I now ask."
" What do you ask ? "
48 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Is it so, dat you are engaged to dat Mess
Gibson ? "
Ralph stared, and so did Melicent, for the question
was wholly unexpected. And by none more so than
the Squire, who looked indignant. " By what right
do you come and ask a thing which concerns myself
only ? "
" Ah. It is, then, true. This Eenglesh Mees
is to be your wife. But I " — she struck her
breast, working herself up into a rage — " what of
" What of you ! " Mr. Hurst looked bewildered.
"Is it me — Clarice Brouwn, dat you trow over,
like dust and rags ? I who do loove you, and I,
you do loove."
" Are you mad ? " Hurst turned crimson with
rage, while Ralph frowned.
" Edgar, what is this ? " he asked severely, for he
was jealous of the family dignity.
" This is my private business," retorted the Squire,
turning on him angrily. " Don't you meddle. Go
away, and take the young people with you."
" Ah, but no. It will not be," cried Mam'zel
Clarice, who had her back to the door, and refused
to move in reply to the Squire's imperious gesture.
" I wish to know if you trow me to de dogs. All sail
leeson ; your child, your brothar, and dat young
" You are quite mad coming here and'^talking
in this way," said the poor Squire, who evidently
was perfectly innocent of any attachment to the
" You meke me mad. Ah, yis. I go mad. I am
Opheha in de play. Oh, my Edgaar, do not be
unkin'. You loove me ; you wish to meke me your
" I never did. It's a lie," shouted the Squire,
STILL A IMYSTERY. 49
stirred up to fuiy. " I never said a word to you the
whole world might not hear."
" WTien I a leetle child you say you loove me and
dat you meke me your wife when I become beeg,"
said Mam'zel doggedly.
" Is this true, father ? " asked Melicent in a
scared voice, for she had no particular liking for the
woman, who was so theatrical and violent.
" True. Yes — in a measure."
" Aha." Mam'zel drew a deep breath of gratifica-
tion, thinking she had achieved a victory, " Den
you will trow over dat girl, dat de veelage say you
marry, and I — yis — I, your own Clarice, will be
your looving wife."
The position was so ridiculous that Miles expected
to see Hurst take the woman by the shoulders and
thrust her out of the room. But he restrained
himself nobly, and spoke in a remarkably quiet
" Miss Brown, you are making a mistake. When
you were a child I did say what you mention. You
were pretty and engaging and, as a young man will,
I made much of you when I went to see your father.
But now you are a woman — and one of thirty " —
Mam'zel winced \'isibly — " you must see that you
are talking nibbish."
" You marry me. I come to dis veelage dat you
" Don't talk nonsense," interposed Ralph, before
his brother could speak. " It is ridiculous to think
that Edgar wants anything to do with you. I know
how kindly he treated your drunken old father, and
how he pensioned your mother when your father
died and she took you to Paris. And in return for
all this you come here on a blackmailing excursion."
" It is not so. Ah, no, you speke cruel."
" I'll speak still more cruelly," retorted Ralph
50 THE BLACK IMAGE.
indignantly. " If I were Edgar I would call in
"You mean well, Ralph ; but let me deal with
this matter. There is not a shadow of proof that
I ever wanted to many Miss Brown."
" Dere Is ! dere is." Miss Brown hastily produced
a small packet of letters from her bag, and untied
the ribbon which bound them. " See, see " — she
threw the loose letters at the Squire, and they were
scattered all over the carpet — " dos are whaat you
say when I was a child."
Hurst made no attempt to pick up the letters,
although Melicent stooped to take a couple. " Miss
Brown, don't be a fool," he said, laughmg con-
temptuously. " Ihis is a mere farce. When you
were a child I wrote you little notes sending dolls
and sweets and such-like things."
" You did promise to marry me. Ah, yis," she
" As a child, yes. One always says such things to
children. Well, Melicent, I see you "are reading some
of the letters. What do they say ? "
" Only that you are sending dolls and other toys
as you said, father. Mam'zel Clarice, you really
are talking nonsense. My father is going to marry
Miss Gibson. He never had any idea of marrying
" I am here, and I stay," said Mam'zel deter-
minedly, folding her arms. " I come to dis veelage
to marry my Edgaar."
" You came because you were left penniless by
the death of your mother and wished for help,"
cried the Squire, thoroughly enraged, " and like a
fool I got you that post of French governess at the
Serbery School. Go away, Miss Brown, and don't
make a fool of yourself."
The woman bent and picked up the fallen
STILL A MYSTERY. 51
letters, weeping as she did so. "I hear vot you
say. Haf you the heart to tell me dat you loove
me not ? "
" Yes, I have. You are placing me in a ridiculous
" Ah, you are weecked, Mistar Hurst." She
thrust the letters into her bag, and closing it with a
snap, dried her tears. " But I will many you. I
am your dea-ar lettle wife ; you say so when I was
a leetle child. Oh, come " — she advanced as the
Squire retreated—" let me trow des aarms roun' dat
" Confound it," shouted the Squire, while Ralph
burst out laughing. And, indeed, Miles laughed
also, as the scene was purely farcical. " Let go,
woman; let go."
But Mam'zel, who had her arms round his neck,
would not let go. Hurst was a small man, and she
a tall woman, wiry and lean, so he was quite unable
to resist her unwelcome caresses. " I loove you,
my de-a-ar one," she said shrilly, and kissed him.
While Hurst choked with rage, Ralph, who
thought that matters had gone far enough, seized
Mam'zel by the shoulders and twisted her across
the room. "She was forced to let go her grip of the
Squire, and reeled against the door in a furious
rage, with her hat off and her hair down. She burst
out into a torrent of abusive French, then seeing
that she was not understood — for none of her
Hsteners could follow her rapid dcliveiy in a foreign
tongue— she again took to her laboured English of
the broken kind she affected.
" I am scor-rned," she hissed, quite in a trans-
pontine style. " I am despis — ed. You trow me
down ; you tread on me. Coward. Infamous
" Oh, get out," interrupted Darch unceremoniously^
52 THE BLACK IMAGE.
and opened the door for the exit of this too
dramatic lady. " We've had enough of this."
" Take her away ; take her away," breathed the
exasperated Squire, wiping his heated face with his
scented handkerchief. " Never let her come here
" I will be revenged," shrieked Mam'zel, and
before Miles could seize her arm she had snatched a
barbaric, ugly-looking knife from one of the trophies
on the wall, and M^as hurling herself forward on the
Squire. Hurst had fallen back into a chair, and was
absolutely defenceless, so a tragedy would un-
doubtedly ,have ensued had not Ralph dashed the
madwoman — for she was little else — aside with
considerable force. Melicent cried aloud as Miles
came forward to help, and flung herself before her
father to shield him. Mam'zel would have un-
doubtedly made a second attempt, but that Ralph
promptly wrested the knife out of her grip, flung
it on the floor, and seized her like a baby in his big
arms. Mrs. Print and the servants, attracted
by the shrieks of the governess, came rushing into
the hall to behold Ralph carrying out the cause of
the disturbance. Miss Brown kicked and screamed,
babbled in a mixture of French and English, and did
her best to escape. But those great arms held her,
and Ralph deposited her on the gravel before the
hall door, in a breathless and dishevelled condition.
" Peeg ! Peeg ! Oh, peeg ! " gasped Mam'zel
while the Squire and Melicent, together with the
servants, thronged on to the steps. " I keel you."
" You mustn't keel any one," mocked Ralph,
and- bent towards her to whisper in her ears sharply
As if by magic, Mam'zel became calm, coiled up
her hair, adjusted her hat, smoothed her dress, and
saw that her bag and sunshade were returned —
STILL A MYSTERY. 53
which they were, by Mrs. Frint throwing them at her
feet. "I go," said the angry woman, with an evil
and meaning smile. " But I come again. Then,
ah, then, my dea-ar Edgaar, you will suf!ar. I keel
you ; I keel you."
" Then you'll be hanged," said Ralph, smiling.
" I care not dat." Mam'zel snapped her fingers.
" I am no child to be so behaved to. I keel heem.
Bah ! " She spat in the direction of the furious
Squire, turned on her heel and went rapidly down
the avenue. The echoes of Ralph's laughter
" Mrs. Frint. Thomas ! " — this to the footman —
" never let that woman enter this house again.
And I hope," added Ralph, turning towards his
brother, " that I don't usurp your privilege in saying
as much, Edgar."
" No, no ! " murmured Hurst, who was leaning
in an exhausted condition on his daughter's arm.
" I have to thank you for saving my life. There !
There ! " he went on testily, as Mrs. Frint came
forward with a smelling-bottle, " that's enough.
I'm all right. Melicent, help me back to the
The girl did so, as the Squire really was greatly
upset by the scene which had taken place. He
looked much older than usual ; his wig had fallen off,
and he breathed with difficulty. However, a glass
of port wine brought by Ralph, who insisted upon
his drinking the same, a brush down and a short
rest in an arm-chair soon made him look more like
himself. When he again resumed his wig — the
falling off of which annoyed him considerably — he
grew calmer, and protested that he was quite
innocent of having in any way encouraged Mam'zel
Clarice, or, as he persistently called her. Miss
54 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" I can only find one excuse for her extraordinary
behaviour," said the unfortunate Httle man, who
was more sinned against than sinning, " and that
is her father."
" Her father ? " asked Miles, looking puzzled.
" He drank," said Hurst solemnly, " and I fear
this miserable woman takes after him. I hope I'll
never see her again."
" I hope you won't, Edgar," chimed in Ralph,
looking more serious than was his custom. " She
might kill you."
" Oh, nonsense ! She was only out of her mind
for the time being."
" Well, I hope she won't be out of her mind
again and come here," said Ralph dryly, and
picking up the Afghan knife, which still lay on the
floor. " This is a nasty weapon to stick you with,
" Uncle Ralph "— Melicent shuddered—" don't
talk like that."
" My dear child, you must look facts in the face.
Mam'zel is dangerous, and I advise that the police
should be told to keep an eye on her."
" No, no," said the Squire sharply. " I should
only be made a laughing-stock, because of the
woman's absurd claim. She is a fool, but not
" She wasn't over-safe with that knife, Mr.
Hurst," said Miles, who was inclined to side with
Ralph and suggest precautions.
" Oh, that was only temper for the time being.
Besides, she won't be allowed into the house again.
Also, for her own sake she will not do anything,
lest she should lose her situation."
" A woman will wreck continents to get her own
way," said Ralph significantly. " However, if you
won't, you won't. I'jm going to the library. By the
STILL A MYSTERY. 55
way, are you going to question Jum about the
closing of the hand ? "
" No. I feel too much shaken. I shall lie down,"
said the Squire nervously.
" Then I'll call him into the library and question
him myself," said his brother briskly, and went off,
humming a tune.
" Melicent," said her father, when Ralph was out
of the room, " go and warn Mrs. Frint to tell the
servants that they must not speak of this scene. I
don't want it known in the village. If the story gets
about, it may come to Lady Gibson's ears, and she
will make trouble. Go, child, go."
Melicent, knowing what a difficult person Lady
Gibson was, saw the sense of these instnictions, and
went promptly on her errand. Darch was left alone
with his host, who lay back in his chair with closed
eyes, more shaken than he chose to confess. It
then occurred to the barrister that he might put
in a word for his friend.
" Have you made up your mind to marry Miss
Gibson ? " asked Miles quietly.
Hurst opened his eyes in amazement. " Of course.
I proposed to her yesterday, and she is willing
to become my wife. Why do you ask ? "
" Well — er — that is — you see "
" Come ! Come ! Come ! What is it ? "
" She might love some one else," said Darch in
" I know something about that. Young Smith.
" Yes." Miles was surprised at the promptitude
with which Hurst grasped the situation. " Do
you know "
" I know all that Lady Gibson could tell me,"
retorted the Squire, cutting him short. " There was
SI kind of flirtation between ■■■
56 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" There is no ' was ' about it," interrupted
Darch in his turn, " nor is there any flirtation.
Toby loves Sylvia dearly."
" I don't care what ridiculous name you call your
friend," snapped Hurst irrelevantly; "but I prefer
that you should call my future wife Miss Gibson."
" Certainly," agreed Miles sarcastically. " Well,
then, Miss Gibson loves my friend Dr. Horace
Smith. Will that do ? "
" No, it won't," said the Squire, whose temper
was considerably ruffled by the scene with Mam'zel,
" and don't be ironical. Though you are engaged
to Melicent, you are not to take liberties."
" I don't want to, Mr. Hurst. But I repeat that
Miss Gibson "
" Loves the doctor. Nonsense. If she did she
would not have accepted me."
" You are rich and Smith is poor," said Darch
" Meaning that she is marrying me for my money ?"
was the angry retort.
" No. I believe that Miss Gibson would marry
Toby, poor as he is."
" Then why did she accept me ? "
Miles fenced. " Lady Gibson is a clever woman ! "
"I'm not marrying Lady Gibson."
" Well, Squire," said the barrister, tired of beating
about the bush, "all I can say is that if you really
love Miss Gibson, you would make her happy by
persuading her mother to let her marry Smith."
" I'm not going to cut off my nose to spite my
face for anyone," cried the little man, highl}^
exasperated, " and as to loving Sylvia, I am past
the stage of red-hot passion."
" So I think," observed Miles unwisely.
" I'm only fifty-six, confound you," raged Hurst,
getting up from his chair in what children call
STILL A MYSTERY. 57
" a paddy." " I'm young enough to marry again.
I admire Sylvia ; I like her ; I think she will look
well at the head of my table, and will be an admirable
mistress of the Hall. I give her money and position,
asking in return "
" Love ? "
" Nothing of the sort. I'm content to be respected
and looked after. I ask her for an heir to the
property. And because I may become the father of
a boy to inherit, you object to the marriage."
" If you think that I speculate on Melicent being
your heiress, and on your death you are quite
wrong," said Miles, with a calmness he was far
from feeling. " I don't want your money, or your
property, as I have sufficient to support my future
wife in comfort. Leave the estate to your brother
if you like. I don't care, nor does Melicent."
" You know perfectly well that I^alph doesn't
want to be worried with the estate. He likes a
quiet life in the library. As to your talk of Sylvia's
being in love with young Smith, that's all flirtation.
Lady Gibson said as much, and she's a shrewd judge
" Lady Gibson says whatever it suits her to say,"
said Miles injudiciously.
" And so do you, and so do I, and so do all.
Anyhow, I'm going to marry her daughter, and the
doctor can go hang for me. Upon my word," cried
the Squire, flouncing about the room in a petty
rage," I don't see why I should be bothered by
strangers poking their confounded noses into my
affairs. First that infernal Brown woman, and now
you. And — and " He faltered, gasped, laid
his hand on his heart, and would have collapsed
on to the floor, but that Miles received him in his
" Th«re ! there," said the young man soothingly.
58 THE BLACK IMAGE.
as he deposited Hurst in the arm-chair. " I apologise.
I only pleaded for Toby, because he is so miserable,
poor chap. Don't worry, Squire, or you'll be ill."
" I'm ill enough as it is, and you have made me
ill," said the other sullenly, " and I wish you and
Miss Brown and the statue and the whole lot of
you were at the bottom of the sea. Frint ! Frint !
Ring the bell for Frint, hang you."
Seeing that the old man was growing alarmingly
violent. Miles did so, and when the footman came,
told him to summon the housekeeper. She entered
a few minutes later along with Melicent, who had
delivered her message regarding the requested silence
of the Hall servants. In a querulous tone the Squire
insisted that Mrs. Frint should take him to his bed-
room, as he wanted to lie down and sleep off the late
excitement. He angrily refused Melicent's offer to
" Stay with Miles and teach him sense," snarled
Hurst, making for the door on the housekeeper's
substantial arm. " Meddling with my business,
indeed. I wonder what next." He faced round at
the door. " I tell you what next, Darch — the
breaking of your engagement to my daughter,"
and with another snarl he lurched heavily away,
supported by the astonished Mrs. Frint.
Melicent was astonished also. " What is the
matter ? "
"I've only been suggesting that Sylvia should
be allowed to marry Toby, who loves her and is
miserable because he runs a chance of losing her."
" I know." Melicent nodded and looked dis-
tressed. " Sylvia doesn't want to marry father,
only her mother insists upon it. But, Miles, it's
useless to speak to my father ; you know how
obstinate he is. We can't help things, and I don't
want to lose you. It's that statue." Melicent ran
STILL A MYSTERY. 59
out on to the terrace, and shook her fist at the
" DarHng, don't be silly," said Darch, following
her, and taking her in his arms. " The closing of
the fist means nothing."
" It means trouble, which has already come. And
it will mean danger, which is yet to come," said the
girl mournfully. Then she buried her face on Miles's
breast. " I'm afraid ; I'm terribly afraid."
" It's certainly a mystery," murmured Darch,
staring at the ominous statue.
" It's trouble and danger, and perhaps — death,"
said Melicent solemnly.
OF course, it followed that the troubles at the
Hall speedily became public property. Mrs.
Print's authority to compel the servants to
hold their tongues was exercised in vain, although
each and every one of them declared that he or she
had not said a word. So, as the delinquent could
not be discovered and it was impossible to discharge
the whole staff, the housekeeper had to allow
things to remain as they were. And things were very
uncomfortable both in the Hall and out of it. Hurst
lay in bed for a few days, and a sick-room atmosphere
pervaded the great mansion, while a haunting fear
was on all beneath its roof with regard to the omen
of the black image. The sudden troubles which had
arisen were all put down to the closing of the hand,
and the famous legend was told over and over again,
to prove that this was truly the case. It was a most
Things were just as uncomfortable in the village,
for every one talked of what had taken place,
exaggerating this and amplifying that until the
story attained to monstrous proportion. It was
known that the hand of Hecate was closed, and for
that reason misfortune was coming to the Hursts.
Report declared that the Squh-e, having been
engaged to the foreign woman, had thrown her over
to marry Lady Gibson's daughter. Also it was
stated that Sylvia had jilted the doctor, because she
wished to marry Hurst for his money. And finally,
a rumour spread that because Darch stood by his
friend, the Squire declined to have him for a son-in-
law. Grenaccr seethed with gossip, and the sleepy
villagers woke to vicious life, discussing the mis-
fortunes of their Squire with ghoulish animation.
The scandal was local and one after then- own
hearts, since they daily saw the people concerned
in the same. A more uncomfortable state of things
can scarcely be imagined, yet it was impossible to
trace the source of the gossip. Every one had heard
the story from some one else, and no one was bold
enough to declare that he or she was the original
inventor of the tale. Mr. James, the vicar, a
well-meaning cleric, actually went so far as to
preach a sermon against scandal, but — as may be
guessed — he might as well have saved himself the
trouble. No one took the slightest notice of his
So strong a hold had the legend and its striking
verification by the closing of Hecate's hand taken
on the imagination of tlie villagers, that they were
quite prepared to hear of more trouble befalling the
Hursts. The Squire was ill and would assured!}^ die ;
if he recovered he would assuredly lose his money ;
Mclicent's engagement with Darch would certainly
be broken ; and Miss Gibson would probably elope
with Dr. Smith. Or perhaps those who lived at the
Hall would disappear, as people had disappeared
in the old days, when Amyas Hurst erected the
fatal image. Or it might be that the Hall would
be burnt to the ground with all under its roof.
There was no end to the prophecies of the villagers,
62 THE BLACK IMAGE.
and these being repeated to Ralph, annoyed him
considerably. He called in Lady Gibson to talk
matters over, for she had come down with Sylvia
to stay at the Hall while the Squire was ill.
" Who should nurse the dear man but his future
wife," gushed Lady Gibson, and irritated everyone
by meddling in the sick-room.
As a matter of fact, she wanted to nurse the
Squire herself, since Sylvia steadily refused to do
so. Lady Gibson stormed and pleaded and cajoled
in vain. Her daughter would not assume the
responsibility, and went about obstinately silent.
And what was worse, she had opportunities of
speaking to Toby Smith, when he came to minister
to the Squire. Hurst in some queer way liked the
young fellow, and, looking on his love for Sylvia
as a mere flirtation, did not object to Toby being his
medical attendant. And indeed, had he rejected
Smith's services, he would have had to send to
Serbery for another doctor. This he did not do,
much to Lady Gibson's annoyance, so Toby came
and went and snatched a word or t\^'o with Sylvia
when possible. Owing to Lady Gibson's vigilance,
his chances were comparatively rare, but those he
did get he took full advantage of. Sylvia's mother
scolded her daughter and pleaded with the Squire,
so that both might dismiss the young man ; but
in neither case was she successful. Therefore, when
Ralph called in Lady Gibson to discuss the village
scandal, she was too full of her own woes to listen
" I really don't understand your brother," said
Lady Gibson with her usual shrug. " Fancy being in
love with my daughter and allowing a younger
man than himself to make love to her. \Vhat does
it mean ? "
" It means that Edgar was always as cold-blooded
as a fish where love is concerned," said Ralph in
his jovial way, and laughed uproariously at the
expression of his listener.
" How can you give way to mirth when your
brother is so ill ? " she remonstrated. " He
"Die ? Not he ! I am fond of Edgar, who has
always been a good brother to me, you know. But
he hasn't got much affection for any of us."
" Melicent "
" Oh, he likes her, but he does not love her as a
father should love his only child. He loves no one."
" Sylvia ? "
" Not even Sylvia," insisted Ralph positively.
" He admires her, and thinks if he marries her she
will give him a son and heir. That is the sole reason
why he wants to marry. There is no love in the
matter. Sylvia might flirt with dozens of men, and
Edgar would take no notice, so long as there wasn't
a public scandal. I tell you. Lady Gibson, there is
something lacking in my brother, for I have never
known him to love anyone or anything."
" Does he hate people, then ? " asked Lady
Gibson, rather puzzled, as well she might be when
being thus made acquainted with the Squire's odd
" Oh, no. He doesn't hate and he doesn't love.
Edgar is purely negative. He is more like a fish than
" Poor Sylvia," murmured her mother reflectively.
" Poor Sylvia, indeed," said the other earnestly.
" If you really wish your daughter to be
happy, Lady Gibson, stop this marriage with
" Certainly not, Mr. Ralph. I wish to see Sylvia
comfortable. In spite of what you say, I'm sure
the Squire loves her."
64 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Would he let Smith haunt the house, if he did ? "
demanded Ralph contemptuously. " Edgar is in-
capable of love, I tell you. He only wants to marry
so as to have an heir to the estate. If he didn't
marry Sylvia he would marry some one else."
" But Melicent is the heiress."
" Edgar wants a son to continue the name."
" But you can continue the name, if you inherit."
" I can only inherit after Melicent, and moreover,
if I did I can't continue the name, as I am not
married. Nor do I intend to marry. Finally, I
don't desire to inherit the estate with all its
troubles. I prefer my books. So don't bother any
more over Edgar's want of appreciating Sylvia as
a charming young woman. He loves no one, not
even Melicent. All the feeling he has is a lukewarm
affection for Mrs. Frint, because she makes him
" That woman! " Lady Gibson sniffed irritably
at her smelling-bottle. " She's a horrid woman, and
won't let me nurse the Squire."
" As you have no call to nurse him, and Sylvia,
as you told me refuses to be his nurse, why shouldn't
Mrs. Frint attend to Edgar ? And she is by no
means a horrid woman," ended Ralph, growing red
and looking as cross as his invariable good- nature
would allow him to.
"Oh, you men ; you men," cried Lady Gibson,
fluttering her handkerchief. " You are always
taken in by women, young and old. I say that
Mrs. Frint is a horrid woman and I won't be con-
tradicted. Look how she dresses ; just like an
actress in a low melodrama, and speaks in a
most illiterate way too. Why doesn't the Squire
pension her off, and send her to live with her
husband ? "
Ralph's grey ey»s sparkled and he looked really
angry. " Mrs. Print's husband is dead," he said,
breathing heavily. " She married John Frint, my
brother's baihff, who left his situation here after the
marriage and took her to London. There he treated
her very badly, deserted her and went to America.
She returned here and we nearly all received her
gladly, as she has lived in this house all her life.
Her husband died in New York years ago, and since
then she has been housekeeper. And she will con-
tinue to be so, always."
" Not when Sylvia becomes Mrs. Hurst." said
Lady Gibson calmly. " I'll see that the woman is
discharged after the marriage. I don't like her."
" Edgar does, and that is sufficient," retorted
Ralph curtly, and seeing that it was useless to talk
of the matter to so obstinate a woman, " if Sylvia
becomes Mrs. Hurst, or if she does not — and there
is much virtue in ' If,' as Shakespeare says — Mrs.
Frint will remain here."
" I don't think so."
"I do. There; let us change the subject" and
Ralph went on hurriedly, so as to prevent further
talk about the housekeeper. " Do you know what
they are saying in the village ? "
" Yes," admitted Lady Gibson, rather sulkily,
for she preferred to go on talking about Mrs. Frint,
and resented being switched so pointedly on to
another subject. " Do you mean all this rubbish
about the hand of the statue "
" Not that exactly," interrupted Ralph. " I
mean that people say Edgar was engaged to Mam'zel
Clarice and threw her over to marry Sylvia."
" Oh, I know all about that." Lady Gibson
shrugged. " Edgar told me how he wrote letters
and sent toys to the creature when she was a child.
So ridiculous of her saying he promised to marry her
on those grounds."
66 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Ridiculous, but disagreeable. The woman's
tongue must be silenced."
" In what way ? "
" By getting her out of the village. Now, Lady
Gibson," — Ralph leaned forward and shook a
massive forefinger in her face — " only a woman
can deal with a woman, so I wish you to go
to Mam'zel Clarice and make it plain to her that
she must leave Grenacer. If she does, people will
cease to talk."
" How can I make the creature leave ? "
" Ah, I leave that to your cleverness," said Ralph
pointedly. " I am quite sure that for Sylvia's sake
you wish this scandal to stop, and so will hit upon
some way of inducing the woman to go."
Lady Gibson reflected. She wished her daughter
to become Mrs. Hurst and get herself in this way a
wealthy son-in-law to supply her with endless
cheques, so, as it may be guessed, was prepared to
move heaven and earth to accomplish her ends.
If the scandal continued the Squire might fight shy of
marriage, although she saw no reason why he should.
Still, the doubt was there, and Lady Gibson wished
to get rid of it by getting rid of Miss Brown. " We
can only bribe the creature," she said after a pause.
" If you will authorise me to do so and will give me
— say fifty pounds — I'll see her and point out that
it is best for her to go."
Ralph nodded his approval. " I have thought of
that," he said, with an air of relief. " But fift}'
pounds won't be enough, for Mam'zel Clarice is
rather grasping, as I know from the way in which she
" Oh, did she," cried Lady Gibson angrily, " the
minx. To take money from the Squire which should
come to Sylvia. I never heard of such a thing.
In some way I'll turn her out of the village neck
and crop. Has she ever been in trouble with the
pohce ? "
" No." Ralph laughed at the vindictive question.
" She is perfectly respectable, as we learned before
Edgar got her appointed a governess at the Serbery
School. No one can say a word against her character.
But I'll give 3'ou notes for one hundred pounds, and
you can give her these, if she promises to return to
Paris and refrain from molesting my brother. I
talked the matter o\-cr with Edgar, and we have
arranged this. But you, Lady Gibson, will be the
best person to settle things with ^lam'zel Clarice."
" Mam'zel Clarice — !Miss Brown," said Lady
Gibson pettishly. " It always sounds as if the
creature had two names."
"Oh, no ! Her name is Clarice Brown."
" I don't care. She sounds all wrong," said the
other confusedly. " I'm sure she is thoroughly
" And so is Mrs. Print, according to you," said
Ralph dryly. " \Vliat a bad opinion you have ol
your fellow-creatures. Lady Gibson."
" I have a ver^^ good opinion of you," she said,
rising, and with a smile. " If only you were the
Squire, I'm sure you would make Syh'ia happ}' and
would not allow that Smith man to bo about the
" I certainly should not," said Ralph in a rather
violent way, " and if I was the Squire, in possession
of a good income, I might enter the lists for Sylvia's
"Oh !" Lady Gibson gasped, as she never dreamed
that Ralph admired her daughter, " but this
" I'd wring his neck," intcrnipted Ralph fiercely ;
then seeing the astonished expression of her usually
vapid face, he calmed down to laugh lightly. " But
68 THE BLACK IMAGE.
I have blood in my veins, not cold water, like Edgar,
and when I love, I love."
" But tell me — really, it's not quite right, you
know — do you — that is — are you in love with
Sylvia ? " babbled the other, still startled.
" Only as an admirer of the beautiful. She is too
much like a fine marble statue for me."
" She isn't with that Smith creature," snapped
Lady Gibson. " However, we m^ust not talk in
this wa}/. It is disloyal to the Squire. Give me
the money. Four twenty-five pound notes." She
counted them. " Thanks. I'll see this woman as
soon as possible. Good-bye. By the way, you are
sure the Squire isn't so very, very ill ? "
" Quite sure. He's only upset over this scandal,
and as soon as you get Mam'zel Clarice out of the
place, he will recover. Edgar is a bit of a coward,
you know, and dreads meeting the woman."
" As she threatens to murder him, I can scarcely
be surprised at that," said Lady Gibson uncom-
fortably. " But, dear me, what a bad character
you give your brother."
" No, no ! Don't leave me with that impression.
I am devoted to Edgar, who is the best and kindest
of brothers. But he has his faults, as we all have,
and I have remained here instead of going out into
the world, so as to look after him. He needs looking
after," ended Ralph, with emphasis.
" I'll do that when he marries Sylvia," said
Lady Gibson, with a sour nod, and took her
departure with the money to bribe Mam'zel Clarice.
On the whole, she was not dissatisfied with the
character given to the Squire by his brother, and
that evening took her way towards the house
wherein Miss Brown lodged, with a contented mind.
Edgar was evidently a coward ; he was too flabby
to love or hate, and was altogether a negative kind
of man, who could be ruled by a clever woman.
Sylvia would not take the trouble to rule him, since
she cared nothing for him, for his position, or for his
money, owing to her craze for Dr. Smith. As Mrs.
Hurst she would be more of a beautiful statue than
ever, and would fill her position in a half-hearted
way. However, that did not matter, for Lady
Gibson knew that if such was the case — and the case
it certainly would be, since she imderstood her
daughter thoroughly — a clever mother-in-law could
hold the reins. And once those reins were in her
hands, Lady Gibson intended to get Melicent married
and out of the way as speedily as possible ; to get
rid of Frint by pensioning her off ; and then she
made up her mind to send Ralph out of the house.
He was kind and agreeable and popular, but he was
by no means a man to be driven as the Squire
could be driven. Lady Gibson was a trifle afraid
of the 5'ounger Hurst, as she believed that he was
the power behind the throne, who managed things
for that figure-head, his brother. In fact, he
had admitted as much during the last conversa-
tion by saying that he remained at the Hall to
look after Edgar. Lady Gibson closed her thin lips
finnly as she rang the bell of the house wherein
Mam'zel lodged. It would be easy to get rid of
Melicent, but difficult to send away Ralph. As
for Frint, it was not difficult to dispose of that
A wan, elderly lady in black, who had seen better
days and was always talking about them, admitted
that Miss Brown was at home, with a faint smile.
Shortly Lady Gibson was conducted to a stuffy
drawing-room by the landlady, who drifted before
her into the room rather than walked. She would
have explained that Miss Brown was a paying guest,
and not a lodger, had Lady Gibson been disposed
70 THE BLACK IMAGE.
to listen. But since she was not, the landlady
drifted away to inform Mam'zel Clarice that she
was wanted. By the light of a dim oil lamp, the
visitor surveyed the tawdry look of the room with
disgust and put up her lorgnette with a supercilious
shrug when JMiss Brown entered. But the super-
cilious look soon changed, when she saw the young
Mam'zel Clarice might or might not have expected
a visitor, but she was certain!}^ dressed to receive
company. In an amazing evening gown of maize-
coloured silk, cut in a style which showed that it
came from Paris, Mam'zel Clarice looked astonish-
ingly young and handsome. Her bare neck and
shoulders and arms were singularly beautiful, and
her figure was displaj'ed to the best advantage in
the perfectly fitting gown. Lady Gibson was
astonished and indignant, and determined in her
own mind that the woman was an adventuress
of the worst description, and not respectable. Else
how could she have afforded such a dress.
" You weesh to see me ? " inquired Mam'zel
Clarice, who, informed by the landlady of her
visitor's name, was quite prepared to fight.
" Yes, Miss Brown," said Lady Gibson coldly,
" I am "
" Ah, but zere is no need. I do know wat you arc,
milady. Ze mothar of dat girl, my Edgaar marry —
if I allow," she ended viciously.
The challenge was given ; the glove was thrown
down, but Lady Gibson did not accept the one or
pick up the other. She had no desire to be drawn
into a vulgar quarrel, and came straight to the
point. " I am aware that you claim Mr. Hurst's
promise of marriage " she began, only to be
cut short by the voluble Mam'zel.
" I haf dc promise, and de letters and "
" Merely notes written with toys to a child."
Lady Gibson indulged in her famous shrug. " A
clever woman such as you are must be aware that
such letters would not hold water in a court of law."
"I do not wan' de laws," said Miss Brown
" I quite believe that," said Lady Gibson sharply.
" You look to me like a woman to whom the law
in certain aspects would have much to say."
" You dare to teke my character away ? "
" Oh, as to that," Lady Gibson waved her
lorgnette in the air, " we won't speak of that. I
don't know anything about your character, and I
don't want to."
" I am quate raight in all vays. And you mus'
" There ! There ! That's enough, my good woman.
I don't wish to hear your history — your probably
shady past," she ended sneeringly.
But for once Lady Gibson went too far. With
a peunce hke that of a panthcress on its prey,
Mam'zel flung herself forward, took her by the
shoulders and shook her thoroughly. Then she
pressed her back into the chair and brought her
face close to that of the older woman. " I vill keel
you, if you do say vun vord against me. I am
amiable : agreeable : honest. Ah yis ! You dare
to gif me insult and I scratch dat painted face you
haf de grin on. Bah ! "
With a dramatic gesture, she flung away and
swept to the door. This she opened and pointed to,
intimating that Lady Gibson should go. And
indeed the visitor felt very much inclined to go. for
the assault took her completely by surprise. Being
a bully, Lady Gibson was a coward, and although she
expected a tongue-lashing from the woman, in
which she knew she could give as good as she recei\ed,
72 THE BLACK IMAGE.
was by no means ready for a stand-up fight.
Tottering to her feet, she explained in a tremulous
voice that Mam'zel Clarice was mistaken : she had
come out of sheer kindness : she had something
important to say : she was never so treated before
in her life and — and
" You go avay," said Mam'zel Clarice, pointing
sternly to the door. " You are, wat I do call a
weecked cat — Ah yis. Go."
" But let me explain."
" Speke Zen and say wat you vish."
" I wish you to go to Paris and have brought you
one hundred pounds."
" Ah ! " Mam'zel snarled derisively, " to leef
behin' zat daughtar of you to marry my Edgar.
I will not go. No ! " and she folded her arms
■ " One hundred pounds." Lady Gibson held
them out, and tried to recover her ground. " You
dreadful woman you ! "
" Vat. You speke so." Mam'zel made another
pounce, but Lady Gibson shrielced and evaded her
before she could be touched.
" No ! No ! Do Hsten. Mr. Ralph wishes you
Mam'zel started, stared fixedly at the trembling
bully and reflected. " Ah ! he does vish me to
" Yes ! Yes ! And sends you this hundred
The woman stretched out her hand, took the
money, and nodded. " Mistar Ralph, he vish me
to go away : he sen' me dis money. So."
" Yes ! He would have come himself only "
" Oh, I know veil why ' only/ Mistar Ralph.
Ah yis. So! Igoinaveek?"
" Really ! " Lady Gibson gasped with reUef, as
she had not expected so easy a victory, " Then
I can depart."
Mam'zel pointed to the door. " Yis. Go away.
Tell Mistar Ralph, dat I go to Paris, because I tink
vot I haf no need to tell you. A veek : sayaveek."
" Yes I'll "
" And you go." Mam'zel suddenly became
ferocious, go, or I keel you. Bah ! "
Lady Gibson fled.
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS.
LADY GIBSON returned to the Hall in a battered
condition, more mental than physical,
though her apparel had been somewhat
disarranged by Mam'zel's violent assault. She
informed Ralph that she had accomplished her
mission at the cost of much pain, and certainly
would not go near the woman again. " A most
dreadful creature," wailed Lady Gibson, thoroughty
upset, when she entered the library to report.
" Knowing what she was, how could you have the
heart to send me to see her."
"Oh, Miss Brown's bark is worse than her bite,"
said Ralph, soothingly.
" It can't be. She — she — shook me."
Ralph roared in his jovial, outspoken way.
" I'm sorry," he said in answer to Lady Gibson's
indignant look, " but really the idea is so funny."
" Funny, Mr. Ralph ? " the injured messenger
shrieked. " I don't see anything at all funny in
being asked to visit a mad woman. And her
language ! " Lady Gibson shuddered. " She ought
to be put into jail."
" I wish she was there with all my heart," agreed
Ralph, recovering himself, '' for then I would feel
much safer in my mind as regards Edgar. I'm
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS.
sorry I laughed, and apologise humbly. Really, I
never knew that Miss Brown would go to such
" I have a great mind to bring an action against
her for assault."
" No, don't do that. In the first place, you have
no witnesses, and in the second, it will be as well to
get her out of the place quietly. We have had
quite enough scandal as it is."
" I don't want any more, I'm sure," said Lady
Gibson, fanning herself with a wisp of lace she
t ermed her handkerchief. " Perhaps it will be as well
o pass over her insulting behaviour in dignified
silence. And after all, Mr. Ralph, I managed to
induce her to go."
Ralph appeared to be genuinely surprised.
" You did. I thought that, having acted as you say
she did, the woman would not have accepted the
" A creature like that always accepts money.
At first she refused to listen, but afterwards, owing
to my skilful managenunt, she agreed to go."
" When ? "
" In a M'eek from now."
" Good ! " Ralph did not conceal his satisfaction.
" Now I feel that Edgar's life is safe. From the way
she had treated you, Lady Gibson, I am sure you
understand how dangerous she is."
" I think she is capable of the vilest crimes,"
said the other positively.
" So do I," was Ralph's grim retort, " so don't
say anything about her behaviour to Edgar. It
will only make him nervous."
" I shan't say a word to any one but you," pro-
mised Lady Gibson, rising, " for I shouldn't like
people to know that I had been shaken. Gracious
goodness me," cried Lady Gibson, as IMiss Pecksniff
76 THE BLACK IMAGE.
had cried before her, " that I should have Hved to be
shaken. I'm all ner\'es. I'm shattered. I shall go
to town to recover myself, and see my doctor. I
might meet that creature again in the village street,
and then she might shake me again."
" One never knows what an uncontrolled person
like Miss Brown will do," said Ralph gravely ; " and
I think you are wise to go away until she leaves.
Will you take Sylvia with you ? "
" No ! Sylvia can stay here with Melicent, and
can amuse the dear Squire, as he will soon be out of
bed and downstairs. So the doctor says. And
speaking of the doctor, Mr, Ralph, I hope you will
keep an eye on his doings and will not let him talk
too much with Sylvia."
" ril do my best. But perhaps it would be better
that you should take Sylvia with you out of harm's
" No ! I don't want her to leave the Squire.
And I think Sylvia is sensible enough not to break
her engagement, seeing that she will never get a
chance of marrying a richer or more agreeable man."
" Rich, yes. Agreeable — well, I wonder if Sylvia
thinks Edgar is agreeable ? "
" I'm sure I don't know what she thinks," said
Lady Gibson snappishly. " The girl is an enigma,
and most disobedient and ungrateful to me. How-
ever, I will say one thing, that she has never broken
her word, so, however much that Smith man may
persuade her, I am sure she will remember that she
is engaged to your dear brother. I admit it's rather
rash leaving Sylvia here while that horrid doctor is
about, but I rely on her honour and commonscnse."
Having delivered herself of this opinion Lady
Gibson went away, to go to bed and take some sal
volatile and generally soothe her shattered nerx'es.
To Sylvia she said little about her visit, save that
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. ;;
Mam'zel Clarice was going, but intimated that she
herseK would leave for a week's stay in London the
very next day. Sylvia expressed neither surprise nor
regret at her mother's projected departure, but cast
down her e^^es and maintained her role as a beauti-
ful statue. Lady Gibson said that such conduct
v,-as unfilial, but did not succeed in rousing the
statue to life.
So the next day Lady Gibson took her departure
with a lying apology that business called her to
London. Hurst was sorry, as her everlasting small-
talk amused his somewhat small mind, and the
wonder was that, this being the case, he did not
marry Lady Gibson instead of her statuesque
daughter. However, as he had proposed to the girl,
and had been accepted by the girl, it was too late to
change round, willingly though Lady Gibson would
have done so. She wanted money, and whether she
got it, or Sylvia got it, did not matter, as in either
case, owing to the girl being a puppet in her mother's
hands, the latter could and would handle the cash.
Kexer for a moment did this modern Mrs. Skewton
dream that Sylvia would dare to rebel or alter exist-
ing arrangements. Nevertheless, she drew the girl
aside on the eve of her departure and spoke seriously.
" Don't go flirting with that doctor man," said
Lady Gibson sharply, " for, weak and silly as the
Squire is, he may object."
" Since he trusts Dr. Smith to come here and
speak with me, I can't see that he will object," said
" Oh, you never know how to take that kind of
sheep creature such as the Squire is," said her mother
crossly. " They're all right one moment and all
wrong the next. All I say is, don't flirt."
" I never flirt, mother. I love Toby too deeply
to flirt with him."
y^ THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Don't talk nonsense, and don't call the man by
that doggy name. It sounds just as if you were
speaking of a poodle. Love, indeed, and the man
hasn't a penny. I never heard of such rubbish.
However, I put you on your honour not to risk
breaking the engagement by arousing Mr. Hurst's
" I don't think he is capable of feeHng jealous,"
retorted Sylvia bitterly ; " and as to my honour,
can't we leave that out, seeing you are forcing me to
marry a man I don't care for, and who does not care
for me. He only wants me to sit at the head of his
table, to receive his visitors, and be a mere cypher
in his house."
" I won't be a cypher, whatever you may be,"
I romised her mother grimly. " And you know quite
well that if you don't marry him we are ruined."
" I have given j'ou my promise to marry him,
" That's right, darling. Kiss me." Sylvia did so,
coldly. " I know I can trust you to keep that Smith
man in his place. If you don't, and the Squire gets
jealous, then there is nothing but the Bankruptcy
Lady Gibson said the last word in quite a Charles
the First way and fluttered out of the house into the
waiting motor-car. Syhia heaved a sigh of relief
when it disappeared down the avenue, and was
thankful to think that she had seen the last of her
imperious parent for seven days. But that the
breaking of the engagement meant absolute ruin,
brought on by Lady Gibson's extravagance, Sylvia
would never have consented to obey her mother's
instructions. But, after all, a mother is a mother,
and little as the girl respected her scheming parent,
still, enough love was in her heart to make her
sacrifice herself to sa^'e her from financial disgrace.
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 79
But it was a very hard position for Sylvia, and she
disliked having to act the part of Iphigenia in so
sordid a manner.
Melicent, who did not Hke the late visitor, was
delighted to hear of her departure, and frankly told
Sylvia so. She was very fond of Sylvia, and there-
fore was walling to accept her as a stepmother,
although she could not understand how the girl could
bring herself to marry the Squire, especially when
a handsome young man like Toby Smith was eager
to become her husband. Still, Melicent was shrewd
enough to sec that Sylvia was dominated by her
mother, and was fighting against the feelings of her
heart. Knowing this, and knowing also that the
love of her father for the girl was simply a mild,
diplomatic weakness to secure a handsome show-
wife — as Melicent put it — she daringly proposed that
Sylvia should pay a visit to the doctor.
" When the cat's away the mice can play," said
Melicent gaily. " If ^'•ou'll excuse me talking about
mice in connection with your mother. I mean cats,
of course. Cats! Cats f "
" You talk so much and think so little, Melicent,
that I don't believe you know what you do mean."
" I mean to pay a visit one evening to Miles and
take you with me to see Toby," said Melicent coolly.
" It's dull work being shut up in this big house with
no one to talk to but Uncle Ralph."
" But I like your uncle," protested Sylvia. " He
is agreeable and amusing."
" Old, all the same, just like father. Miles and
Toby are much nicer. Youth draws to youth, and
although I don't mind your being my mother,
" Yes ! Yes ! I know what you're going to say,"
interrupted the other girl hastily ; " but you don't
8o THE BLACK IMAGE.
" I know that you're being forced into this mar-
riage, and I don't think that I am disloyal to
my father in saying that. It would be different
if father really worshipped you ; but he doesn't.
You're handsome, and will suit him as the mistress
of the Hall. But it isn't real, true love, S\dvia
" Real love and I have long since parted, my dear.
But won't your father be annoyed if I go with you
to see " — Sylvia hesitated — " Miles ? "
" Toby, you mean, although father needn't know
that. He needn't know anything, really," said
Melicent audaciously. " I'll set Uricle Ralph to
arrange things in some way. He's a dear old thing,
and he'll contrive. I know that he knows you really
love Toby and not father. He would like to see you
married to Toby, since he knows it really wouldn't
matter much to father."
Melicent spoke truer than she guessed, for Ralph
was by no means in favour of the marriage. Not for
Sylvia's sake so much as for his own, for he recog-
nised that the girl was under her mother's thumb,
and that when she became his brother's wife, Lady
Gibson would be the real mistress of the Hall. And
that meant trouble, since Lady Gibson liked her
own way, and usually managed to get it. Ralph
was quite comfortable as he was, and did not wish
the existing state of things changed, especially as,
if Sylvia refused the match at the eleventh hour,
Edgar would not break his heart. And Lady Gibson,
with her desire to dismiss the housekeeper, showed
very plainly how she intended to upset things.
Therefore Ralph encouraged Sylvia's meetings with
the doctor in every possible way, and was quite
willing to fall in with Melicent 's plan of an evening
visit to the young men. Ralph knew that Lady
Gibson had forced Sylvia on the Squire, and had
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 8i
cajoled him into a proposal, so he had no compunc-
tion in breaking off the marriage if he was able.
And in this, as in other things, he was acting as the
power behind the throne, so as to keep his brother
in peace and comfort. Ralph was as strong as his
brother was weak, and for years had been the real
ruler of the house. He did not intend to resign his
sceptre to Lady Gibson, which he would certainly
be forced to do if she managed to make her too-
obedient daughter Mrs. Edgar Hurst. For this
reason amongst others he agreed to arrange the
" For it is stolen, Melicent," he protested, " on
Sylvia's part, that is. For although your father
doesn't mind Smith seeing her here, he certainly
would object to this evening visit."
" I wouldn't suggest it if I thought that father
really adored Sylvia," said Melicent thoughtfully.
" But he doesn't, and I'd be glad if Toby would
marry Sylvia and put an end to this ridiculous
" Think of your father's feehngs," rebuked Ralph
"He hasn't got any in that way," insisted the
girl positively. " If T thought so I'd be the last to
encourage Toby Smith. And I don't believe that
father wished to marry again in the least. That
horrid Lady Gibson made him propose. There would
be a row if she heard of our visit."
" She certainly will hear of it should your father
get to know," said Ralph, with a shrug of his huge
shoulders. " He tells her everything, and seems to
think more of her than of Sylvia."
" Then why doesn't he marry her ? It would be
" Would you like Lady Gibson as a stepmother ? "
" No," Melicent frowned and pouted. " I don't
82 THE BLACK IMAGE.
like her. But the vdsit. Can we paj- it in a way
that father won't get to hear of it ? "
" Oh, yes. See here." Ralph produced a slender
key and gave it to his niece, " That opens the door
of the postern — you know, Melicent, the door which
is at the side of the house."
" Yes, I know, I know," said the girl impatiently,
slipping the key into her pocket. " Of course I
know the house from cellar to attic. When I open
this door we go along the passage leading to the
" Exactly, and thence you can get into the hall
and ascend the stairs. But do so quietly, so as not
to waken Mrs. Print or your father. By going and
coming in this way no one will see you and Syh-ia,
so your father won't know."
" Can't you sit up and let us in, Uncle Ralph ? We
won't be late."
" I'm going to sit with your father and, as you
know, I am sleeping in the adjoining bedroom, since
he is nervous owing to that woman's conduct. Also
I shall go to bed early to pacify your father. When
he knov\'s that I am in bed and the house is locked
up he will go to sleep quietly."
" I see !" MeHcent laughed ; then added anxiously,
" then 'v^'hy should he be afraid if the house isn't
locked up ? There are no burglars in Grenacer."
" Your father fears lest Mam'zel Clarice should
get into the house and worry him," said Ralph seri-
ously, " and every night he has been careful to ask
if evcrs^thing is bolted and barred. I don't know if
I should give you the postern key," said Ralph,
rubbing his nose in a vexed way, " as I shall have
to tell a lie if your father asks me if the house is
" I've got the key, and I intend to keep and use
the kev," said Melicent in a determined way ; " and
THE UXEXPECTED HAPPENS. S3
as the door will be locked when we go and locked
when we return I don't see that you will be telling
" Well ! Well ! Well ! Go and enjoy your-
selves. But don't be late."
" We'll be back at ten o'clock."
" Nine. I insist upon nine, for by then it will
still be light."
" Veiy well then, Uncle Ralph. We'll return at
nine. But it won't be so very light then, and it
doesn't matter if it isn't light, as Miles and Toby
will see us home. You're a darling, Uncle Ralph,"
and standing on tip-toes Melicent kissed him three
Three nights later, two girls slipped out by the
postern door, which was on the west side of the
house, set in an angle, and overshadowed by a large
chestnut -tree. No one sav/ them, as the door was
rarely used, so they danced down the avenue in the
luminous twilight about seven o'clock. Sylvia felt
particularly bright and uplifted, owing to the absence
of her domestic tyrant and to the fact that she was
going to see Toby. Hand in hand she and Melicent
ran onward, opened the big gates, and slipped along
in the shadow of the park wall to the house of the
two bachelors. It certainly was not quite the thing
for two young ladies to be out at such an hour paying
such a visit, and the local Mrs. Gmndy would have
been shocked had she seen them. However, they
were fortunate not to meet the lady in the person of
any gossiping villager, and soon arri\'cd at the gate
of Darch's house, which opened on to the high road,
no great distance from the end of the park wall.
Melicent, holding Sylvia's hand, stole through the
garden, which was the pride of Milcs's heart, and
looked in at the window. The blinds were up, as it
was sLill light, and Darch was playing after-dinner
84 THE BLACK IMAGE.
chess wiiii Ills Iriend. Tliey were so absorbed in the
game that they did not notice the girls at the v/indow.
" Check," cried Mehcent, and tapped on the pane.
Miles arose with an exclamation of surprise as he
recognised her voice, and opened the window^ which
happened to be a French one. Meliccnt walked into
the room, follo^ved by Sylvia, and then it was the
doctor who exclaimed. He rose so hastily as to
upset the chessboard, and went straight towards
the girl with the evident intention of taking her in
his arms. She looked at him warningly, shook her
head, and stepped back.
" No ! No ! We have only come to pay you a
\'isit because — because "
Meliccnt, seeing that she hesitated, took the words
out of her mouth. " Because Lady Gibson is away.
She went to London to-day and will not return for a
week. You might have learned that, doctor, had
you come to see father to-day."
" I see the Squire as little as possible," said Smith
quickly, and with a frown. " He really doesn't need
much medical attention, and he doesn't care much
about my coming to the Hall."
There was an awkward silence, for the presence of
the Squire's daughter prevented plainer speaking.
Miles was the first to open his mouth.
" Isn't it rather unconventional for you two 3'oung
ladies to visit two bachelors ? " he asked gaily.
" What will the Squire and Lady Gibson say ? "
" They won't know anything about it," retorted
Meliccnt lightly. " We slipped out and we shall slij)
in, with the assistance of Uncle Ralph, who really
is a darhng," and she explained about the key of the
friendly postern door.
Toby laughed, but looked serious. " All the same
I am not sure that you should have come," he said,
with a sigh.
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 85
" Oh, bother ! " Mehcent shrugged her shoulders.
" It is so dull at the Hall, and S3dvia and I wish to
be amused. Amuse us."
" Well, as you have kicked over the social traces
so far as to be here, we may as well do our best,"
said Darch. " Melicent, you are a grown-up young
lady and not a schoolgirl, remember."
For answer she ran to the piano and rattled off
a ragtime song, while Toby looked at Syh-ia and
wondered if he dare speak plainly to her regarding
the position of things. ]\Iiles saw the look, and being
quite on his friend's side so far as the forced marriage
with the Squire was concerned, suddenty resolved
to give them a chance of speaking. After all Sylvia,
who was very unhappy, as he knc\\', dcsor\-ed some
reward for having dared to pay this \-isit in the direct
face of her mother's intentions.
" jMeliccnt, come into the garden. I have a new
flower to show you," he said, and touched the girl
on the shoulder.
" I believe you lo\e your garden and flowers more
than you lo\e me," she replied, jumping up to accept
" You arc a flower yourself, dearest," said Darch
in a caressing tone, and putting his arm round her
slender waist he led her through the French windon-
and into the garden. Shortly they were deeply
engaged in horticultural topics, and took no notice
of the two left behind.
Smith thought that Sylvia would follow the Io\'ers
into the garden so as to avoid an awkward conversa-
tion with him. But Sylvia had come purposely to
have the conversation in question, so that he might
thoroughly understand why she obeyed her mother.
This she explained to Toby, A\'ho listened, leaning
'against the mantelpiece, with downcast eyes.
" So you see," said Syh-ia, in a low, rapid voice
86 THE BLACK IMAGE.
and after a somewhat lengthy explanation, " I
must marry Mr. Hurst or see my mother m the
" Yes, I sec," the doctor sighed heavily, opening
and shutting his hand. " I have known all along
that you don't marr}^" this man of your free will.
I'm sure you don't love him, Sylvia."
" No," she replied listlessly. " I certainly don't.
I neither love him nor hate him, for he is one of those
men who don't awaken any feeling either M'ay. I
feel ashamed to marry such a man, seeing that he
cares nothing for me — that is, in the way a man
should care for his future wife."
" If he doesn't care, why does he want to marry
you ? "
" ]\Iy mother managed to get him to propose, and
I accepted, as she told me that my refusal meant
absolute ruin. But it's horrible." Sylvia pressed
her hands together vehemently. ' ' Edgar only wants
me to bo the mistress of the Hall and look after
things. He's not a man. If he were, he would not
allow you to come to the Hall, even as his doctor,
when he knows that I love you dearly."
" And you do, Sylvia," he made a step forward.
" Don't ; stay where you are, Toby. What's the
use of making things harder for me. 01 course I
love you. Doesn't my being here show that I love
you. I M'ould marry you to-morrow, poor as you
arc — but — my mother."
Her ^•oice died away in a cry of pain, and Smith
clenched his teeth on his lower lip to prevent himself
from speaking wildly. When he did open his mouth
it was to speak calmly enough, although the effort
was great. " Do you owe so much to your mother,
Sylvia ? "
" I owe very little." She lifted her heavy
eyes. " All my mother cares about is for me to
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 87
marry money. For my happiness she cares
" Then why should you sacrifice yourseh ? " he
" She is my mother, after all. Toby," she rose
suddenly and spoke in louder tones, " you don't
know how precarious is our position. My mother
has sold everything ; mortgaged everything. My
father left a good sum of money and a fair amount
of property, but my mother has wasted ever^'thing,
and now we have only a few hundreds left, just
enough to keep things going until I marry the Squire.
If I married you my mother would have to go to
the workhouse. She has tired out her friends. No
one will do anything for her. I hate seUing myself,
but oh, my dear, what can I do ? If you were only
rich and could help my mother."
" I wish I were, but I am not. Sylvia, I would
give my life to call you wife and break this wicked
engagement. But I am as poor as a church-mouse.
Still, if you marry me, we could go to the Colonies,
and I'm sure I could soon make money there."
" But my mother ? "
"Ah ! that's the stumbling block."
The two poor things looked piteously at one
another, but felt themsehes too ringed round by
circumstances to make any change for the better.
And at the moment the voices of Miles and Mclicent
were heard nearer, so they were evidently returning.
The unhappy lovers could not speak confidenlially
any longer, and indeed there was nothing left to say.
Smith felt inclined to draw Sylvia to his breast and
urge her to dare the worst ; but he could not bring
himself to do so, seeing how impossible was the
realisation of his hopes. He and Sylvia looked
at one another longingly ; then, when the others
returned through the French window, masked their
88 THE BLACK IMAGE.
real feelings in unmeaning smiles. A fellow-feeling
made Miles and Melicent understand what had taken
place. But they could do nothing, and so also
masked their real sentiments. The quartette plaj'ed
at being happy. They chatted and sang, conversed
about Shakespeare and the musical glasses, and
altogether alcted their respective parts as though
they were on the stage. Eveiy one was unhappy :
Sylvia and Toby because of circumstances ; Miles
and I\Ielicent out of sheer sympathy.
At last the slow hours of make-believe came to an
end, and shortly before nine o'clock the young men
escorted their guests home. It was still tolerably
light, so, to avoid curious glances, they walked along
the riverside. Here the party, following the curve
of the stream wound deviously until it passed through
a thick wood, \vhich grew round the walls of the
Sanctuary and concealed the same from the road-
way. On the land side the trees were dense and
dark ; on the river side few and scattered. Between
their trunks could be seen the gleam of the river
and the flat corn-lands beyond. Melicent com-
mented on the grove, which hid the walls of the
" It is because of this wood that the Hall is called
Thorswud," she said carelessly. " Uncle Ralph says
that the god Thor was worshipped here once."
" The god of Force," commented Toby bitterly.
" He is still Vv'orshipped here, I think, Melicent,"
and he looked at Sylvia, who was being forced into
a disagreeable marriage by her scheming mother.
After passing through the wood the party emerged
on to the high road, which ran along beside the park
wall. They kept in the shadow of this to avoid any
passers-by ; but there was no need to do so, as they
found when they slipped into the gates of Thors^vud
I or they met no one. As it was iust on nine o'clock
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 89
they ran hastily up the avenue, turned the corner
of the house, and came to the postern set in the angle
of the building. Owing to the shadow of the chest-
nut-tree, it was so dark here that Melicent could not
find the keyhole. Fortunately, Miles had brought
his electric torch and was able to illuminate the
precise place where the key should be slipped in.
Mehcent thrust it in and turned it to open the door.
But before she could push back the door a dark figure
dropped from the chestnut branches on to her and
she fell to the ground with a cry. Taken by surprise
the two men halted for a moment and did nothing,
while Syh'ia shrieked. Then they ran forward, only
to find that it was too late. The dark figure arose
from the ground, fumbled for a moment at the door,
and then sprang away. It was the figure of a man,
and he escaped as if by a miracle. Melicent rose
and clutched at the door.
" Oh," she cried in horror, " stop him ! stop liim !
He's taken the key."
MELICENT awoke with a confused sense of
what had taken place on the previous night.
After turning over three times, rubbing her
eyes, stretching and yawning, her brain began to
work, and she lay quiet, turning over matters in her
mind. Her shoulders were still sore from the weight
of the person who had dropped so unexpectedly
upon them from the tree. That person had been no
light v/eight, and the concussion, together with the
subsequent fall, had shaken the girl a great deal.
But who the person was, and why he should ha\'o
been hiding in the chestnut-tree to drop upon her,
and then run off with the key, she could not imagine.
All she did know was that the assault had taken
place, and that the key of the postern had been
stolen. The reason wh}- such things should happen
\vas as yet a mystery.
And the worst of it was that the Squire had come
to know all about the matter of the secret visit to
Dr. Smith's house. Almost as soon as the young
men had set off in pursuit of the mysterious thief,
and while she and Sylvia were yet clinging together
in sheer fright. Uncle Ralph had appeared at the
door. Luckily she had opened the door before the
AN EXPLANATION. 91
theft of the key, else her uncie hmisch cuuld not
have opened the door, for there was only one key —
the key he had lent her. It was a surprise to see
Uncle Ralph appear so unexpectedly, as both she and
Sylvia believed that he was sound asleep in the room
next to that of the Squire. Uncle Ralph's hasty
explanation that he had lain a^'ake \\'aiting for their
return and had heard the cry for help, fell on deaf
ears, for Mehcent remembered that both she and
her friend had been too confused to pay much atten-
tion. When they went upstairs the Squire had come
from his bedroom to learn what the noise was about,
and Uncle Ralph had been forced to explain. Then
she and Syh'ia retired to bed in tears and in disgrace.
It had been a most unpleasant end to a none-too-
pleasant evening. As to what became of Miles and
the doctor, Melicent could not think. But she would
hear all about it soon, and rose reluctantly, with
the expectation of ha\-ing a disagreeable morning.
For if Uncle Ralph was not angry her father
After her bath and the brushing of her hair, and
the agreeable work of dressing herself in a delightful
summer frock, Melicent went off to see how Sylvia
was feeling. She found her friend up and dressed
also; but, contrary to Miss Hurst's expectations, she
did not look in the least downcast. As a matter of
fact, her usually grave face was wreathed in smiles.
Melicent stopped short at the door in sheer amaze-
ment at the sight.
" Aren't you afraid, Sylvia ? " she asked, hi
a tone of awe. " There's sure to be a row, you
" My dear, I liave been so often in trouble with
my mother that this row does not worry me in the
least. Moreover," Sylvia's face brightened still
more, " perhaps your father will refuse to marry me
tj2 THE BLACK IMAGE.
because of our escapade, and if he does mother can't
" She will though," said Melicent positively. She
knew the lady's temper.
" Well, I don't care," said Sylvia recklessly. " I
may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb ;
and, after all, I really doji't want to marry your
" I often wonder why you accepted him," said
Melicent, as they went downstairs, " for you never
told me the reason."
" I thought my mother might Imxc given you
a hint," remarked Miss Gibson dryly. " Your father
is rich ; my mother is poor, and I was forced to be
" Oh," Melicent was shocked at this crude way
of putting things ; " and 1 thought you loved
" So I do. j\Iy going to see him last night and
risking trouble is a proof how much I love him. I
never thought that your father would find out
about it ; but as he has done so I'm ready for the
" Father was veiy angry last night."
" I don't wonder, poor man, being awakened by
your shrieks and mine," said Sylvia flippantly.
" I couldn't help shrieking when that horrid man
dropped on me."
" Of course you couldn't, and I shrieked to keep
you company. AnyhoA\', our cries awoke your
father and — well, you know what took place. But,"
added Miss Gibson slowly, " if your father says any-
thing more to me this morning I shall soon show
him I'm not a schoolgirl to be trampled upon."
"I'm not either," declared Mehcent valiantly.
" After all, we didn't do any harm, and Uncle Ralph
will stand by us."
AN EXPLANATION. 93
in this reckless frame of mind the culprits marched
into the dining-room, where Ralph was already at
breakfast. His eyes twinkled when he saw their
impenitent faces, but he refused to say much
about the matter until they had eaten a good
breakfast . AH he did tell them was that the young
men had not succeeded in catching the thief, and
had returned to make a brief explanation and be
" Did father see them ? " asked IMeliccnt anxiously.
" No ; he was so angiy that I thought it best to
see them and dismiss them myself. And, strange
to say, the excitement has done your father good.
He is coming downstairs at midday. Of course, as
I said, your father does not approve of your visit
to those young men, and I got a severe wigging for
aiding and abetting you."
" I don't think much of father's wiggings. I never
did," said Melicent, with a shrug, " and I hope he's
got over his temper."
" I hope he has," said Sylvia emphatically. " I'm
not going to marry a man with a temper."
" Oh, he won't say much to you. jMelicent will
act as your whipping girl."
" I shan't allow that," said ]\Iiss Gibson, drawing
herself up and looking vciy handsome. " If any one
is to be blamed I am the person."
" Well, well, well," said Ralph, in a comforting
tone, " perhaps no one will be blamed. I think my
brother has exhausted his rage."
" I don't care if he has or has not," said Sylvia
sharply. " I'm not married to him yet, you know,
The younger Hurst looked at her curiously,
admiring the colour in her face and the temper she
showed. Hitherto he had always seen Sylvia meekly
bending to her mother's will, too haughty and too
94 THE BLACK IMAGE.
indifferent to display her feelings. Now he beheld
her in a new light, and recognised that she had a fine
strong spirit of her own. Opposed as he was to
the marriage, Ralph thought what a lucky fellow
his brother was to get such a handsome girl for
a wife. Sylvia met his eyes, resented the look
of admiration in them, and resumed her breakfast
with a look of anger on her usually expressionless
face. " *
" Who stole the key, Uncle Ralph, and ,'why
was it stolen ? " asked Mehcent, who had now
" I'll teh you bolh that in the hbrary after break-
fast. But you must promise to say nothing about
the matter to your father."
" But he knows "
" He knows that you were out and that some one
snatched the key. But he does not know who the
some one is."
" Do you ? " Both girls asked the question
Ralph nodded in a provoking manner and strolled
out of the room. So anxious were the two ladies
to learn what he knew, that they were only another
five minutes over their meal — that is, Sylvia was,
as Melicent had finished \vhen she asked the question
concerning the key.
The library was a large, old-fashioned apartment,
the walls of which apparently consisted of books,
for there was no sign of the same, so hidden they
were by the many volumes. There were three
narrow windows looking out into the park and draped
with faded red curtains ; a fireplace of ruddy tiles
with a mantelpiece of black oak, and one wide door
leading out of the hall. The carpet was crimson,
and in the middle of the vast apartment stood a
large table covered with red cloth and piled with
AN EXPLANATION. 95
papers. The rest of the furniture consisted of com-
fortable leather arm-ciiairs to the number of five or
six. Into one of these Melicent dropped, while Sylvia
placed herself in another. As for Ralph, he remained
seated at the table, ^vhere he had been when they
" Now give us the explanation. Uncle Ralph,"
said his niece, who was consumed with a curiosity
manifestly shared by Miss Gibson.
Ralph drew his hand out of his pocket, and with
it a slender key. " This is the explanation," he
said, with a bland smile.
" The key. Did you get it ? How did you get
it ? Who stole it ? Why was it stolen ? Who got
it back again ? Miles ? Toby ? "
The questions from the two poured so thickly and
quickly that Ralph raised his hands to his ears.
" Wait ! Wait ! and hold your tongues. You are
nearest to the fireplace, Melicent. Rmg the bell and
see who comes in."
Wondering at this order the girl did so, and looked
in the direction of the door. It opened suddenly
and Jum shot in with his usual rapidity. He
grinned when he saw the young ladies, and tlicn
stood stiff as a ramrod looking at Ralph, 'ihat
gentleman had sat do\\-n again and now waved his
" Tell Miss Hurst and Miss Gibson what you told
me, Jum, and explain how you were in a position
to get the information. Use your best English and
mind you speak slowly."
" Oh, go on. Jum, go on," cried Melicent
impatiently. " How did you "
" Let the boy speak, Melicent," internipted her
uncle, and the boy did speak.
" Mr. Ralph Ir'd n^.e to watch Mam'zel Clarice
after she made ;^u assault on Master," said Jum,
96 THE BLACK IMAGE.
choosing liis words carefully. " He thought she
might try it on again. So, ever since, I've been
looking after her day and night, so as to see what she
" And what was she doing ? " asked Sylvia,
" Watching this house, miss.'"'
" What for ? "
" I can't tell you that, miss ; but she has always
been prowhng about the place, mostly when the
twilight came. After your lady-mother came to see
her, miss, she came out, and was walking round and
" Trying to get in ? " asked Melicent suddenly.
Jum bowed gravely. " Yes, miss, I think so.
But every time she tried she never did, though she
looked at all the windows and doors. And last
night, miss, Mr. Ralph told me to follow you and
Miss Gibson, so that Mam'zel should not harm
you. That "
" Oh, how ridiculous," interrupted Sylvia. " Why
should she wish to harm us ? "
" My dear Miss Gibson," said Ralph seriously,
" one is never safe with a M'oman of that kind, and
as she wishes to marry my brother she is naturally
Sylvia shivered. " I never thought of that. You
are right. Go on, Jum."
" Well, I followed, miss," continued Jum, " and
soon saw that Mam'zel was follov/ing also."
" But how did she know that we were going to
Dr. Smith's ? " questioned Melicent excitedly.
" She was always watching, miss, and somehow
got to know." '
" Melicent," said her uncle at this moment, " do
you remember how Mam'zel became calm on the
day I carried her out, when I whispered in her ear ? "
AN EXPLANx\TION. 97
" Yes, uncle ; I M'ondered what the spell was."
" This, When Mam'zel came to Grenacer I made
myself acquainted with her life in Paris. I learned
that she had been in the secret service of the pohce
there, and whispered that I would tell your father
her profession if she did not go quietly. You saw
how she obeyed, and knowing this you can easily
guess that such a clever woman would easily be able
to learn about your doings and know how to follow
you. Go on, Jum. i\Ielicent, you can express your
Thus warned Melicent held her peace, and
Jum, feeling the importance of his position, con-
tinued gravely : " Mam'zel followed you and
Miss Gibson, miss. I followed her, and you spoke
so loud, miss, that I heard what you were saying.
And so," added the boy significantly, " did Mam'zel
" What did I say, Jum ?" Melicent look startled,
for although she knew that whatever she said would
be innocent enough it was not a pleasant thought
that her conversation had been overheard by so
dangerous a woman as Miss Brown.
" You said how lucky it was that you had the key
of the postern door, and a lot else, miss. But
Mam'zel, as I guessed, only paid attention to
" But why should she ? "
" Can't you sec, Melicent ? " said Ralph, rather
impatiently. " Didn't Jum tell you that she was
prowling about the house to get another chance of
speaking to your father and could find no entrance.
Of course when your incautious conversation gave
her information about the key she made up her mind
to get it."
" Oil," cried Sylvia, suddenly enlightened, " then
it was "
98 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Wait ! Wait ! One thing at a time. Continue,
As gravely as ever the boy went on speaking :
" Mam'zel followed the young ladies to the
doctor's house, and then went home to her own. I
followed her, as Mr. Ralph had told me to watch her
closely. After a long time, while I hid in the garden,
she came out dressed as a boy."
" Oh ! " said the girls simultaneously. Then
Melicent said, breathlessly indignant : " How dare
she ? " and her uncle answered :
" A wom.an who has been in the Paris secret police
will dare a great deal to gain her ends, and is well
furnished with cunning experience of how to gain
them. She came out in a kind of close-fitting
bicycle suit, I fancy."
" She did, sir," said Jum solemnly. " And then
she made for the park, slipped in through the big
gate and ran up the avenue. I followed, just in
time to see her climb into that chestnut-tree near
"I see ; I see," cried Melicent excitedly. " She
waited there until we returned home, and then
dropped on my shoulders " — she rubbed one rue-
fully — " so as to snatch the key."
" Exactly," said her uncle calmly.
" And remember, Mehcent, Miles flashed his torch
on to the keyhole so that you could slip in the
key. The woman saM^ plainly where it was," said
Mehcent nodded. " She stole it cleverly enough.
What I want to know is how Uncle Ralph got it
" Hearken to Jum," advised Ralph grimly.
" I was round the corner," said the page modestly,
" and heard you cry out, Miss Melicent. When
Mam'zel got the key — and I guessed she was after
AN EXPLANATION. 99
that — she made off. I followed, and managed to
catch up with her. Somehow I tripped her up, and
said I'd hold her until the doctor and Mr. Darch
came up unless she gave me the key. I suppose
she was afraid of being caught, for she threw it at
me. While I was picking it up she ran away as
luird as she could. I found the key and slipped in
amongst the trees beside the avenue. When the
doctor and Mr. Darch passed me I came back to the
postern and found Mr. Ralph waiting. I gave him
the key and "
" Why didn't you wait and tell Mr. Darch ? "
hiterrupted IMelicent impatiently.
" I think Jum was wise not to do so. Had lie
told ]\[iles that he had recovered the key and knew
the name of the thief Miles, in his excitement, might
have told your father."
" But I want Miles to know the truth now,
" He can, for now he is less excited, and I
can explain to him that I don't wish my brother
to learn the truth. If he did he would have no
" But eveiything is safe now, since you ha\'c
the key back," said Syhia ; " the woman can't
" True enough ; but until she goes she will ti-y to
get in, and that fact alone is sufficient to thro-\v my
brother into a nervous fe\-er. If you remember, all
I explained last night to my brother, to account for
the noise, was that you and Melicent had been
frightened by a tramp when returning from your
visit to the doctor. Keep to that stoiy, Miss Gibson,
and never let on that Mam'zel Clarice has anything
to do with the matter. Jum, you can go. I am
very ]jleased with you, my lad."
" And so are we," said Syh-ia and Melicent,
loo THE BLACK IMAGE.
Jum retired, blushing with pleasure all o^'er hh
freckled face, and indeed he deser\^ed their praise,
for few boys of his tender age would have acted so
cleverly and with such circumspection. He opened
the door to depart, and as he did so the Squire
stepped into the library. He looked much better,
but still seemed listless and bored. With a nod to
his brother and a frown at his daughter he spoke
coldly to Sylvia.
" Will you come to my study ? " he asked, with
chill politeness. " I wish to speak to you."
" Father, it's all my fault." Melicent jumped up
and ran forward.
The Squire put her aside without a word. " I
ask if Sylvia will come to my study ? " he said again,
and still coldly.
" Certainly ! " said Miss Gibson, throwing back
her head in a haughty manner and leaving the room
calmly. She knew that she was in for a bad quarter
of an hour, but knew also that she was quite able to
hold her own with this dapper manikin who ^vas to
be her future husband — that is, if the interview
passed off successfully, which, so far as she could
see, was unlikety.
When in the study, Mr. Hurst placed a chair for
Sylvia and sat down at liis desk in a magisterial
manner. '; The girl faced him quietly, again resuming
her mask of statuesque repose and uninviting
silence. This demeanour disconcerted the Squire,
who had hoped for tears and apologies. But
Lady Gibson was not there to coerce her daughter,
and lacking so capable an ally Hurst had to face the
situation — and one of his own creation — alone. He
did so with manifest reluctance, since the blood ran
too thinly in his veins to stimulate his courage to
real manly indignation.
" I am very much annoyed, Sylvia," he said, after
AN EXPLANATION. loi
a pause, " to hear from my brother that you visited
Dr. Smith's house last night."
" You never told me that you objected to my
speaking to him," she said coldly.
" Not here. But in his house — that is quite
a different thing."
" How so, Mr. Hurst ? "
" I think you might call me Edgar seeing that you
are engaged to me."
" How so, Edgar ? " asked Sylvia obediently, for
the point was not worth arguing, and it was useless
to irritate the weak little man.
" Can you ask ? Your mother told mc that you
were flirting with that young doctor. As I am not
of a jealous disposition I made no sign of displeasure,
and even allo\\-ed young Smith to attend me when
I was ill, knowing that you \\-ould meet him. You
must admit that I am no tyrant."
"Oh, certainly, I admit that."
" But to go to his house in the e\-ening was
" I can't sec it. I might shelter myself behind
]\Ielicent and say that I accompanied her to see
Miles, but I shan't do that. I went because I wished
to go, and because it was necessary to see Dr.
" Why was it necessaiy ? " asked the Squire, in
his fretful fashion.
" Because I love him, and had to explain that I
could not marry him, since my mother wishes me
to many you. Owing to my mother's presence
here I had no chance of a private com-ersation in this
house. So when she went and Dr. Smith did not
come I thought it best to pay the visit you speak
of. But for the trouble last night you would not
have known anything about the matter and, as you
know, ' Where ignorance is bHss.' "
loj THE BLACK IMAGE.
" All, the tramp ! Well, it serves you and
Melicent right in being frightened by that tramp,
whosoever he is. You acted wrongly."
" I acted rightly." Sylvia spoke haughtily.
" You are engaged to me."
" By my mother's desire," she reminded him
" Not by your own ? "
Syh'ia stood up indignantly. " I don't see why
you need ask that question, Mr. Hurst. You know
well enough that I do not love you and that I love
Toby — I mean Dr. Smith. You want me as your
wife and, for my mother's sake, since she is poor, I
have sold myself."
" You put matters plainly," snapped the Squire,
biting liis lips.
" It is necessaiy to speak plainly," was the
haughty reply. " And now that I have done so,
will you cancel our engagement and give me back
my word ? "
" What about your mother ? " asked Hurst,
fencing. " You know what this marriage means to
her. I understand her position thorough^, and I
am willing to help her if you marry me."
" Do you call yourself a man to accept me as your
wife on those terms ? " demanded Sylvia scornfully.
" It suits m}/ purpose to have you as my wife,"
said Hurst obstinately, and unmo^^ed by her scorn ;
" and my wife you shall be. I don't demand ^ove
from you, but I do demand respect."
" Respect ? "
" Yes ; you must stop speaking to this young
man, and you must promise me never to pay him
" I promise," said Sylvia coldly. " I have told
him all I had to tell him. He understands the
situation as well as vou do."
AN EXPLANATION. 103
."Very- good. The Squire rose, and appeared to
be relieved. " Then things can remain as they are."
" For my mother's sake, I suppose they must.
But one change in the existing state of things
I shall make."
" And that is ? "
" I shall go up to town to my mother to-day."
" Oh, go by all means," retorted the Squire ;'"but
remember you return as my wife."
THE CURSE OF HECATE.
SYLVIA lost no time in departing. She had
failed to mo\'e the Squire in any ^\'ay, since
he was evidently more determined than ever
to make her his unloved wife. She felt, however,
that she had reached the bounds of her endurance
and could not stay under the same roof with him ;
at all events, for the time being. Certainly, when
she became Mrs. Hurst, she would be obhged to live
always under the same roof, but Sylvia hoped that
some miracle would occur to prevent the wedding
taking place. Hurst's mere presence made her
shudder. He was as cold-blooded as a fish, and
was buying her just as he might have bought a
chair or a table to furnish his house. He understood
thoroughly that she did not love him and wished
to marry Toby ; j^-et in the face of her plainly-
expressed scorn, he held to his bargain. The
amazing thing was that a girl like Meliccnt should
have such a father. He had no honour, no feelings,
no chivahy, no sympathy.
And yet Sylvia saw that she would be obliged to
inarry him. When she was his wife her mother
would be helped and placed above all financial
troubles for the rest of her frivolous life. If she
refused to marry', then there was nothing but ruin
THE CURSE OF HECATE. 105
for her mother and for herself. Sylvia cared vciy
little for ruin, so far as she personally was con-
cerned. She was young, she was thoroughly well
educated, and in one way or another would be
able to earn her own living. Failing all else, she
could marry' Toby and share his poverty, helping
him, as his wife, to improve his circumstances as
she best could. But her mother could not be
helped by Toby, A\ho was so desperately poor, and
what was to become of her ? On her \\'ay to town
Sylvia racked her brain for some solution of the
painful problem, but could find none. There
seemed to be no help for it. She would have
to many Hurst and sacrifice her young life for the
sake of a selfish parent who thought only of herself
and her pleasures. There was something mon-
strous that such a sacrifice of one human being
to the selfishness of another should be demanded.
But, after all, a mother is a mother, and the
sacrifice had to be mi'.dc. It was the relationship
which so complicated matters.
Mclicent received a weak scolding from her father,
who was more querulous than angry. She took all
tlie blame upon herself, and protested against being
condemned as if she had done something wrong.
She was engaged to Miles, she argued, so why
shouldn't she see Miles on all and ever\' occasion.
Besides, she had received the approval of her uncle
and the help of her uncle. And, after all, no one
had seen her or Sylvia either coming or going.
" You are making a mountain out of a molehill,
father," said Melicent.
" Well, it's not to happen again," said her parent,
weakly cross. " It didn't matter so much about
you going, but you had no business to take Sylvia."
" I couldn't go alone. I had to chaperone Sylvia."
" Your future mother."
io6 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Stepmother,, father, though I doubt if she ever
will be. Sylvia is a dear girl, and if she will make
you happy I shall be glad to see you married to her.
But you don't seem to care much for her, father."
" She suits me as a wife," said the Squire doggedly.
" You haven't experienced what she'll be as a
wife yet, father. And, anyhow, she loves Toby
Smith and doesn't love you."
" I know all about that. Love doesn't enter into
" Why not ? " Melicent opened her eyes widely.
" I thought that love was necessary for a happy
" Not in this case. Sylvia and I will be perfectly
happy as soon as she recognises what is due to me,
and that is respect."
" Were you ever in love, father ? " asked the girl,
" I liked your mother," he replied evasively.
" Liking isn't love."
" And asking questions isn't politeness," cried
Hurst, exploding in a kind of weak rage. " Go
away, Melicent, and don't you lead Syh-ia astray
Melicent did go away. She could not understand
her father. As with Sylvia, the parental relation-
ship comphcated matters. Her father was her
father, and had to be regarded as such ; but there
was no true bond of feeling between them other than
the mere flesh and blood one. The girl was young,
very warm-hearted and ardent, liking and disliking
thoroughly with all her feelings, so she could not
respect the half-hearted manner in \\'-hich the Squire
behaved. He was polite, polished, even gallant,
but there was no depth in him, and he was incapable
of decided action, right or wrong. After Sylvia's
departure, and M-hen Miles came one day to the Hall,
THE CURSE OF HECATE. 107
she asked his opinion. All the j^oung man could do
v\as to quote Toby as a medical authority.
" He says that your father is suffering from a want
of blood. His heart is weak ; his blood is thin ; he
lacks vitality. All the flesh and blood strength of
the family is stored up in your uncle."
" I am strong enough," said Melicent, resenting
" I allude to the last generation, of course. Don't
be too hard on your poor father, dear. He can't
help being born a weakling."
" He is not a weakling in some things, Miles.
For instance, he v.-ill insist upon marr\-ing Sylvia,
although he knows that tie will make her miserable."
" Your father hasn't enough imagination to con-
reive that and, moreover, like all weak people, is
intensely selfish and obstinate, if you will pardon
my saying so."
" Oh, yes," replied the girl \'aguely. " I brought
your veiy frank explanation upon myself."
No more was said at the time, as Miles felt some
delicacy in continuing the subject introduced by the
daughter of the man who was being discussed. Bui
Melicent felt that what Toby Smith said was true ;
her father was a Aveakling, and if he lived to the age
of Old Parr would be nothing else. It was a painful
thought to a girl, who loved a man to be a man, but
there was no remedy for it that she could see. E\en
his second marriage, with a beautiful woman like
Syh'ia, would lea\'e him where he was, flaccid and
inactive. Why her father should be thus debilitated
she could not imagine. It was not that the Hursi
race was worn out, for there v/as plenty of red blood
in the veins of her uncle and of herself. Both,
making allowance for the difference between their
ages, were eager for enjoyment. Ralpli for his
books, and she for life of whatever description, rural
io8 THE BLACK IMAGE.
or urban. Melicent gave up trying to understand
how she came to have such a father, and accepted the
fact with as much philosophy as she was capable of
conceiving. After all, he v/as not a tyrant, and, on
the whole, was fairly easy to li\'e with.
For two or three days after Sylvia's departure
things went on as usual, and nothing of importance
happened. Unaware of Mam'zcl's machinations, and
knowing that she intended to return to Paris, the
Squire fell back into his old Hstless ways. He dressed
smartly, as usual, took his little walks in the park,
played billiards with his brother after dinner, and
read a little before going to bed. Melicent felt very
much bored. Sylvia M'as absent and would not return
for a fortnight, when they would come down for a
few days, as Lady Gibson AM'ote. There was no one
to talk to save Miles, and although being in lo\-e the
girl found him a host in himself, she nevertheless felt
she would like to see some members of her o^^'n sex.
But most of the girls she knew were in town for
the season. Melicent wished to go also for a few
days to London, but her uncle persuaded her not to
leave the Hall until Mam'zel Clarice cleared out,
as he put it.
" But when will she clear out ? " asked Melicent,
A\-ho had sought the library in order to ask the ques-
tion about going to London.
" Are you sure ? "
" Positive. By her tiying to get that key she has
placed herself within the reach of the law. I went
and told her so, saying that your father would cer-
tainly prosecute her if she did not leave Grenacer."
" And she agreed ? "
" She couldn't do anything else," said Ralph
coolly. " I pointed out to her that I would prevent
her, at all costs, from seeing your father again and
THE CURSE OF HECATE. 109
pressing her ridiculous claim. I reminded her that
through Lady Gibson I had sent her one hundred
pounds ; — that is, your father desired it to be given
to her, since he did not wish the daughter of his old
tutor to be left penniless. I advised Mam'zel to go
back to Paris and take up her secret service business
with the French police, as the career offered many
chances for the de\elopment of her spying propensi-
ties. So she is going, for Jum — I set Jum to watch
her — says that she has sent her box to London."
" Why can't she take it with her ? "
" Oh, she explained. You know that your father
kindly gave her a motor-cycle to travel to and from
Scrbery for the school business. Well, Mam'zel
intends to take a small bag and travel to London on
the machin*\ I daresay she will sell it in London,
secure her box, and cross the Channel. Then that
will be the end of her, and a good job too."
Melicent nodded. " She would certainly make
trouble if she stayed. But when can I go to London,
Uncle Ralph ? "
" Why not ask your father ? "
" Oh, you know \\-]iat father is. He never wants
me to go away. But he alwaj's does what you advise,
so " Melicent waited in eloquent silence.
Ralph laughed whole-heartedly. " I see. Well, I
am going to London on Friday myself to see Lady
Gibson and Sylvia on your father's behalf."
" Why ? "
" Oh, your father wants Lady Gibson to under-
stand that Sylvia's escapade makes no difference to
his feelings towards her. You know that, as Sylvia
docs not wish to marry your father, she may have
told some cock-and-bull stoiy in order to break off
" I wish it was broken olf," said Melicent angrily.
" I think it's a shame for Sylvia to be forced into
Tio THE BLACK IMAGE.
marriage with father, who is much too old for her,
and who doesn't really care for her. Besides, she
" Precisely ; and that's why I am going up to make
it clear that your father is of the same mind. I'll
ask Lady Gibson if you can go and stay with her for
a week, and will persuade your father to let you go."
" Thank you, uncle. I don't like Lady Gibson, but
I love Sylvia, and if you can get father to give me
plenty of money we can go shopping."
" That can easily be arranged. But you under-
stand, Melicent, that I go up on Friday morning.
Mam'zel, I believe, goes on Friday evening. I travel
b}^ train, and she on her motor-cycle. So if she
tries to get in and see your father after I go, and
before she goes, mind you prevent her."
" Yes ; I'll get ^liles to come here for the evening.
He can deal with her."
" I hope so," said Ralph gloomily ; " but Mam'zel
Clarice is a clever woman and a dangerous woman.
I shan't feel safe about 3'our father until she is in
Paris. She might try to stick him again as she tried
" Oh, she was only in a rage," laughed Melicent,
with the easy confidence of youth. " She won't
make such a fool of herself again."
" Let us hope she won't. Anyhow, you are wise
to get Miles to come and see you on Friday evening.
He will be able to arrange things should there be
trouble of any kind."
Melicent did not think that there would be trouble,
and thought that her uncle was making a great fuss
about nothing. However, she asked Miles to come
to dinner on Friday, and suggested that he should
stay until nine o'clock at least, since Mam'zel — as
Jum learned from the landlady who had seen better
days— intended to start for London about eight
THE CURSE OF HECATE. iii
o'clock. Once the adventuress was out of the place
Melicent felt that she could breathe freely, for, in
spite of her nonchalance when speaking to her uncle,
she was a trifle afraid. The hand of Hecate, as she
remembered, had closed and was still closed. If the
legend was to be believed (and the girl thoroughly
did believe it), misfortune would come to the Hursts.
And, so far, trouble certainly had come, though not
actual misfortune. But a cloud in a blue sky may
change from white to grey, and the grey can change
swiftly from that to black, bringing thunder and
lightning, devastation and wreckage. So there was
yet time for disaster to happen. Melicent said so
in the drawing-room to Miles after dinner, and
shivered with apprehension as she spoke. She
would not have made the remark had her father
been present, since she did not wish to rack his
nerves. But he had retired to his study to read the
evening papers, which had just arrived, and she was
alone with Miles in the drawing-room. Ralph had
gone to London by the morning train, and Mam'zel
— ah, where was Mam'zel ? "I wish Jum would
come and tell us she has gone," said Melicent
anxiously ; " for while she remains in Grenacer I
feel sure that — as T said. Miles — there is time for
disaster to happen."
"Oh, that statue has got on your nerves," said
the barrister, trying to laugh the girl out of her fears,
" and it's all nonsense an^'how."
" Well, you must admit that only since the hand
of Hecate closed has trouble come to this house."
v^i" It came with Mam'zel Clarice and it will go with
her. It's half-past eight now," added Miles, glancing
at his watch. " Jum will be here soon."
As he spoke there came a sharp knock at the door,
and the boy entered with the welcome information
that Miss Brown had taken her departure. " She
112 THE BLACK IMAGE.
went off on her cycle, with a small bag, and dressed
as a boy," explained Jum.
" In which direction did she go — to Serbery ? "
" No, miss ; she went along the Brant road."
" Brant is only four miles away," said Melicent.
" I expect she is going to catch the train there to
" No ; remember your uncle told us that she was
riding to London. The Brant road is a better one
than the Serberj- one, as there are not so many
" I see." ]\Ielicent drew a breath of relief.
" Thank you, Jum, You can go now. You are
sure that Mam'zel really has gone ? "
" Quite sure. miss. I saw her slipping along the
Brant road in the twilight as hard as she could,"
and with a pleased grin he vanished rapidly, after
his usual meteoric fashion.
" Now, are you satisfied ? " said Darch, taking
Melicent in his arms.
" Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! " She broke away and began
to dance about the room. " I feel quite happy and
merry and gay. Oh, what a relief. Miles ! "
" And the closed hand ? "
" Perhaps it will open again to-morrow. After
all, we've had a lot of bother about Mam'zel and her
visits, so perhaps Hecate will relent and let the
Hursts off further trouble."
" i\Ielicent, you are silly to connect this woman's
doings with that confounded statue. If I had my
way I'd melt it down."
" I'd never let you do that seeing how much it
has to do with the luck of the family," said Melicent
sharply. " Of course when we marry you'll be
master here when we inherit the property ; but you
mustn't meddle with Hecate."
*' Well, I won't, darling. As to coming here, we
THE CURSE OF HECATE. 113
never may come. If your father m.arries again, he
may have a son and heir."
" Oh, well," cried the girl gaily, and full of joy
now that the shadow of Mam'zel Clarice had passed
away. " I don't care. We can live on your five
hundred a year, and I can learn to sew and cook and
bake and boil."
" I don't think you'll need to do that," said the
barrister gravely. " See here, Melicent, I intend to
chuck my idea of a rural life and to go in seriously
for my profession."
" That's a new idea," Melicent raised her eyebrows.
" It's Jum's idea, though he doesn't know it.
XMien I see that lad so anxious to get on and working
so hard to take advantage of his opportunities, I
feel a slacker ; and a slacker, Melicent, isn't worthy
" Oh, you're not so bad as that, Miles," she
faltered, looking down.
" Yes, I am," he answered almost fiercely. " That
lad, with his perseverance, has taught me a lesson,
although he doesn't know it. Think of how he
spoke when he came here a year ago, and think how
he speaks now. It's wonderful. No, Melicent, the
time is past for rural bliss and lazy pleasures."
" You work hard enough in your garden. Miles."
" I'll work harder at my profession, and," he
caught her to him fondly, ""^for your sake, my dear
Melicent buried her face in his breast. " I'm glad,
I'm glad," she said softly. " I really do wish you
to work and become great. • I have an idle father
with no ambitions, and I want a hard-working
husband with many."
" Let us limit the ambition to one thing — the
woolsack," said Darch with a laugh, but very
much in earnest. "And now you understand my
114 THE BLACK IMAGE.
programme and Mam'zel has gone for ever, I shall
go. It's nine o'clock."
" Say good-night to father," urged the girl, and
with a nod he consented.
The Squire was comfortably seated in his study,
with the door open, on account of the heat. He had
laid aside his newspaper and was reading a novel.
Beside him, on a small table, stood the lamp, and in
the dim twilight outside could be seen the menacing
figure of Hecate, with her clenched hand ominously
upraised. Melicent shivered at the sight, which
recalled her many fears, but now that the cause of
such fears, in the person of Mam'zel Clarice, was
gone she laughed at herself for her folly. Laying her
hand on the Squire's shoulder, she told him that
they had both come to say good night.
"It's early yet," said Hurst, laying aside his book
reluctantly. " I don't intend to go to bed myself
" Oh, father, when you have been so sick."
" I wasn't sick, only worried by that confounded
woman with her whims. However, she has gone.
Ralph arranged that, so I feel quite well and don't
intend to worry about her any more. Won't you
stay for a glass of wine ? " he asked the young man.
" No ; I wish to get home. Besides, Melicent is
tired and intends to go to bed straight away."
" Ah, and I'm no company for you when Melicent
is away. That's love, I suppose. Miles. Queer
thing. I've never been in love myself. Well, good
night, good night. Kiss me, Melicent. I shall stay
here and read this book. Send Frint to me with
a brandy and soda."
The 3'oung people took their leave and Melicent
saw Miles to the door to kiss and dismiss him. It
was a hot night, and the mists were rising in the
park, which looked gloomy with its dense foliage
THE CURSE OF HECATE. 115
under the starry sky. There was no moon and no
wind either, which Miles regretted, as he felt very
warm indeed. With Melicent's farewell kiss on his
iips, he strode down the dark avenue and left her
standing at the door. So long did she stand that
Mrs. Print found her there.
" Bless me, miss, you'll take a chill," said the
bustling housekeeper. " Do come in and let me
bolt the door. I've taken your pa his nightcap, and
I'm going to bed. He won't want anything more
" You're going to bed early. Print," said Melicent,
while the housekeeper bolted and barred the great
" And so's every mortal soul in this house, my
dear," she replied with a sigh, " for we're all wore
out considerable with the heat. Good night, miss,
and if you can spare a kiss which Mr. Miles don't
Melicent, who was very fond of the voluble, vulgar
old woman, kissed her heartily and then ran up the
shallow oak stairs to her bedroom. It was in the
east wing of the house, far away from the front and
from the Sanctuary. Melicent was always glad of
this, as she disliked the Sanctuary, with its gloomy
funereal trees and grim black image. But, on the
whole, she felt very happy on this night, and tried
to put the statue out of her head. Mam'zel was
gone, her father was better in health, and Miles had
expressed his intention of doing justice to his mental
powers. Putting aside the miserable affair of Sylvia
and the forced marriage, which was always disagree-
able, there was nothing to worry about. Hecate
might have exhausted the contents of her closed
hand in the various petty worries of the last week
or so. Only in one way could Melicent see any
future trouble coming.
ii6 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Sylvia's marriage," she murmured to herself, as
she tumbled into bed, feeling unusually heavy and
drovvsy. " If father marries her and she grows tired
she may elope with Toby. But I shan't trouble
about that. I shan't trouble." Here her thoughts
grew confused and shortly she w^as sound asleep,
like the healthy young animal she was.
As a rule, Melicent slept too deeply to dream.
But on this night she did dream a great deal. Nor
were the dreams pleasant. Somehow the statue had
come to life and was stalking after her grimly down
a long road bordered by cypress trees. Her hand
was still clenched, and she wished to show Melicent
what was in it. But the girl in her dream was over-
come with fear, and fled for miles, through many
years, as it seemed, in her efforts to escape the evil
image. Finally Hecate caught her, laid a heavy
arm on her shoulder and opened the closed hand
directly under her eyes. What she saw there the
girl could not remember when she awoke, for at that
moment she did awake. And in a terrible fright,
too, for something horrible was disclosed by the
opening of the hand. With a cry Melicent sat up
in bed, streaming with perspiration and shaking in
every limb. She was thankful to see that the dawn
of day had come, for if she had awakened in the dark,
with that terrible dream as vivid in her brain as it
now Vv^as, she would have been scared to death.
Sitting up, she leaned her head on her hands and
tried to think what was the object revealed by the
open hand. Suddenly, when it was quite light, there
was a cry and a rush, and Mrs. Frint swept into the
room, haggard and tearful.
" Miss, miss, your pa is dead. Your pa has been
Melicent stared at her quite dazed. " It's the
curse of Hecate," she muttered stupidly.
A NINE days' wonder.
MRS PRINT wore an emerald-hued dress,
adorned with yellow ribbons, and the
aggressive contrast between this gay garb
and her terrified looks was markedly striking. Her
whole body was trembling, her legs failed to support
her, and she dropped into a chair to UTing her hands
and weep. Melicent, not able as yet to quite under-
stand the terrible news, stared at her in a dazed
manner. The shock unsettled her thinking powers
for the moment.
" The curse of Hecate," wailed jMrs. Print, shaking
like a jelly and rocking to and fro. " Is that all you
can say, miss. Don't I tell you as your poor dear pa
is dead with a knife in his heart."
" It's the curse of Hecate," repeated the girl,
springing from the bed and becoming much more
alive to the situation. " It was said that when her
hand closed misfortune would come to the Hursts,
and it has come. I always said it would. Father
dead ! Oh, it's impossible ! "
Hardly aware of the contradiction convc3^ed by the
latter part of her speech, Melicent snatched up her
dressing gown, thrust her bare feet into slippers,
and ran out of the room. Mrs. Print, crying and
trembling tottered after her, and arrived in the study
J I 7
ii8 THE BLACK IMAGE.
to find Melicent kneeling by her dead father,
supporting his head in her lap. The Squire was,
as the girl had seen him last, in evening dress, but
his expansive shirt front was soiled with blood,
where the knife had penetrated the heart. The
knife itself, an ugly-looking weapon, evidently
taken from the trophy over the fireplace, lay on
the carpet beside the body. Melicent stared at the
still white face directly under her eyes, and then
raised them to see the Black Image with its raised
arm and clenched fist towering menacingly in the
bright morning sunshine. Two chairs were over-
turned and many loose papers had been swept off
the table, while the book Hurst had been reading lay
beneath it. One window was open and so was the
"Go back, go back! " cried Mrs. Print to the
scared servants, who were peering into the room.
" Don't come in until I send for you. Miss Melicent
you shouldn't have touched the body. It must lie
as I found it until the police come. Get up, there's
a dear, though a shock it's bin to you as to me, may
the Lord have mercy on us both."
" Poor father," murmured the girl, whose face was
pale, but with dry eyes, for she felt too horrified to
weep, " to think he was alive and well when I left
him last night ' ' — she raised her head and looked a t
the housekeeper — " you saw him later than I did."
Mrs. Print nodded and sobbed. " I took him in
his nightcap. Brandy and soda it was, with a biscuit.
He was sitting in that chair reading, and said he
wouldn't want anything more. Then I went to
bed : you saw me go to bed, miss, after you kissed
me. Lord knows I ain't got nothing to do with
the master's being as dead as a herring."
" No one suggests such a thing," said Melicent
mechanically, " when did you find him dead ? "
A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 119
" Just after seven, and it's not eight o'clock yet,"
sobbed the stout woman hj^stericahy, " I came in to
dust and tidy up, for you know, miss, as your pa
never let any one but me do that. He was lying
there, just as you saw him, and you should have
left him alone, miss."
" Was the door open ? " asked Melicent, remem-
bering that on account of the heat it had been
standing wide on the previous night.
" It was, miss. I expect some one got into the
house in that way and knifed him, pore dear."
" From the Sanctuary ? Impossible. You know
that no one can get into the Sanctuary;"
" Walls can be climbed, miss. And if you'll
look out, you'll see that the ladder as was used to
examine the closed hand of that dratted stater is still
there. Bin made use of too, I should say."
This was extremely likely, as the ladder rested
against the wall to the left of the image, and any
interloper could descend it with ease. But how
such a person could mount the wall from the outside
Melicent could not conjecture at the moment.
However, it was useless to sit on the floor with the
head of her dead father in her lap, since there was
much to be done. No one could take charge of the
situation save herself, as her uncle was away in
London, and Miles was at the other end of the
village. Melicent kissed the rigid white face, laid
her father's head gently on the ground, and covered
it with a handkerchief silently handed by Mrs.
Print. Then she rose, and forced herself to attend
to matters of moment.
" Send Jum at once for Mr. Darch," she said
rapidly, " and tell him to bring Dr. Smith with him
also. One of the grooms can go for the policeman.
Keep the servants in order until I dress, and don't
lose your head. No one is to enter this room, until
120 THE BLACK IMAGK.
Mr. Darch arrives. I'll lock the door so as to make
sure that nothing is disturbed."
" You've disturbed things yourself, miss, by
meddling with the body," complained Mrs. Print, as
they left the room and Melicent locked the door
" but, lor, it don't matter, though it's a pity you did
not leave it alone. I'll do what you say, miss.
But do try and cry, deary. Tears will relieve your
" I can't cry," said Melicent, sighing. " I wish
I could, but I can't. Some things are too terrible
for mere tears. Go and do what I tell you. Print."
The housekeeper with a scared glance at the pale
face of her young mistress gulped down her grief
and hurried away, still trembling and shaken to the
very core of her being. Just as Melicent was
mounting the stairs in order to dress, Mrs. Print
hurried back. " Shouldn't you telegraph to Mr.
Ralph, miss. He ought to know at once."
" He is returning by the midday train," replied
the girl after a pause, " so he will learn the horrible
truth soon enough."
" But to prepare him for the shock, miss," urged
Mrs. Print, " to get him ready as you might say,
by breaking the news gently."
" Do as you like. Print. You know the name of
the hotel Uncle Ralph generally stays at. The
groom who goes to bring the policeman can take the
Melicent issued the order rapidly and then ran to
her room. In a wonderfully short space of time she
was dressed; and put on a black frock, since death
was in the house. Although not desperately fond
of her father, owing to his never seeking her affection,
the girl had sufficient love for him to be terribly
shocked by his death. And such a death ! It was
heartrending to think that the quiet, harmless
A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 121
little man could bo struck down in this barbarous
fashion by a cruel enemy. And Melicent had no
doubt as to the name of that enemy. Mam'zel
Clarice had undoubtedly killed the Squire. But
how she could have entered the house, seeing that the
key of the postern had been recovered, Melicent
could not imagine. Unless — and this idea was
suggested by Mrs. Print's mention of the ladder —
she had climbed over the wall of the Sanctuary, to
descend the same and enter the study by the open
door. So far as the girl's bewildered brain could
grasp things, this was the sole conclusion she could
And with this belief that Mam'zel Clarice had
stabbed her father came her tears. The sudden
announcement of Mrs. Print had paralysed the girl,
and the actual sight of the dead body had stunned
her. But now that she knew the worst, and had a
glimmering idea as to how the worst had been
brought about, she began to cry bitterly. In many
ways she recalled her father's kindness, for although
he was usually weak and indifferent and wrapped up
in himself, yet on the whole he had been kind. He
had never grudged her any money, or any pleasure
within reason, and had even taken a kind of feeble
pleasure in her good looks and vivacious nature.
Melicent reproached herself somewhat unnecessarily
for not having appreciated him more, although
he had really patiently endured her filial advances
rather than accepted them. But the girl being
generous and affectionate, blamed herself for neglect,
and wept bitterly. It was the result of the usual
parental and filial complication of two diverse
natures being brought into close contact, which
engendered some mysterious sympathy which
could not be put into words. Hurst had always
been indifferent to his daughter and Melicent had
122 THE BLACK IMAGE.
always been chilled by that indifference. Still,
the inexplicable bond of father and daughter existed,
and it was this which made the girl weep for the loss
of one with whom she had nothing else in common.
However, weeping was of little use, since it could
not bring back the dead, so Melicent dried her eyes
and went downstairs to await the coming of Miles.
Hardly had she reached the drawing-room — she
avoided the study in which the body lay — than
Mrs. Frint announced his arrival. He brought the
doctor with him, and they were both horrified by
the calamity. Miles entered hurriedly, and walked
across the room to take Melicent in his arms. She
ran forward to throw herself into them, and Darch,
while soothing her, nodded to Toby as an intimation
that he had better leave the room. So Toby went
and inter\dewed the village policeman, who also
had arrived, while Miles comforted the orphan.
'.' Cry dearest ; cry," said the young man tenderly,
" it will do you good."
Melicent shook her head. " I have cried up-
stairs," she said woefully, " and I feel that tears
won't do any good. Only — only — Miles you don't
think that I neglected father."
The young man led her to the sofa, sat down and
took her on his knee, to hold her weary head against
his breast. " No, dear, no," he said softly, " you gave
your father all the affection he wanted. Had he
shown any desire j^ou would have given him more.
But a self-centred nature such as he had — but
there, he is dead, so I shan't say anything more.
Only don't blame yourself Melicent. You did
what you could."
" Are you sure : quite sure ? "
" Quite sure." Darch petted her. " Don't make
imaginary troubles for yourself, darling. There
are quite enough as it is."
A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 123
" That woman killed him, Miles."
" What makes you think that ? "
" Miles," the girl raised her face to look at him in
amazement, " who else could have done so ? "
"Oh, I understand what you mean. But Jum
told us that he saw her on the motor-cycle making
for Brant at eight o'clock last night. And as your
father was murdered much later, "
" There was time for the woman to go to Brant
and return from Brant. On a motor-cycle she
could be here, there and everywhere, easily."
" But she was going to London."
" So she said, and so we believed. But she did
not go. Miles. She returned to murder my father."
" But how did she get into the house ? "
" I believed she climbed over the wall of the
Sanctuary. The ladder we used to examine the
closed hand of Hecate is still there, leaning against
the inner wall. She could have descended by that."
" Granted. But how could she have ascended
the outer wall ? "
" I don't know," said Melicent, hopelessly, " but she
is guilty. I saw her myself try to kill my father with
that knife she snatched from the wall of the study."
"You forget that I saw her also," he said quickly.
" Well ? "
" Well, it is that very knife with which my father
has been stabbed. I recognised it at once. Uncle
Ralph told me at the time that it was an Afghan
knife. That woman failed to kill father the first
time, she succeeded the second time, and acted
in precisely the same way. 1 wonder you didn't
immediately guess the truth."
" I did "think that Mam'zel Clarice had killed
your father when Jum came with the news. But
remembering how the boy had seen her leave
Grenacer 1 thought that I was mistaken."
124 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" People who go, can return," said Mclicent,
shaking her head, " 1 haven't the least doubt but
what she is guilty."
" Nor have I, now that you have explained the
method of the murder. However, my dear,"
Miles rose quickly, " we must look into matters.
Have you telegraphed for your uncle ? "
"Mrs. Frint has. She suggested doing so. And
I have sent for Walters."
" The village policeman. That is wise. Let us
see if he has arrived, I dare say Toby who came
with me, has examined the body by this time."
" He can't have done so," said the girl quickly.
.'.' Lve locked the door of the study and have the
key in my pocket."
"A very wise precaution," was Darch's reply,
" Things must be left as they were found until the
police take charge."
" Mrs. Frint found my father dead. Miles. But
I took his head on my lap, although she said that I
shouldn't have touched him."
" It would have been wiser not to. Anyhow no
one can say a word against your action which was
the outcome of affection. Come, let us see Walters."
The village constable was a burly man with a red
face and mild blue eyes, not particularly clever,
but shrewd to a certain degree. His waiting for
the key of the study was due to his respect for
Melicent's natural grief. Meanwhile, he had heard
all that was to be heard from Mrs. Frint, and was
talking the matter over with the doctor when the
young couple appeared. Melicent at once gave him
" You will take charge of everything, Walters,"
she said, striving to be calm.
" Yes miss, until my superior officer comes. I
have telegraphed to Serbery for the Inspector.
A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 125
Jupp is his name, miss, and if any one can come at
the truth he will. A clever man is Inspector Jnpp,
miss, x^nd if I may say how very sorry I am,
" Yes ! Yes ! " Melicent waved her hand as they
went to the study. " I know you are sorry, Walters,
But don't say anything more, or I shall break down."
"I quite "^understand, miss," said the constable
sympathetically, and slipped the key into the lock.
Smith made a hasty examination and decided that
the old man had died immediately, almost without
pain, which was a comfort to INIelicent. The blow
must have been delivered with extraordinary force
as it had pierced the stiff shirt front and penetrated
the heart. How deeply, it was impossible to saj',
until the post mortem was held. Then Walters
examined the room, to find that the door was
open while only one of the two narrow windows
He also noted the books and loose papers hdng on
the floor and the two overturned chairs. Thence the
policeman searched what Mrs. Print called the
garden, and climbed the ladder reared against the
wall. For a long time he peered over, stretching
down his arms and looking carefully right and left.
Wlien he descended, he turned to Miles.
Would you mind coming with me sir, to examine
the other side of the wall."
" Certainly, Walters. But why ? "
" There's a chestnut tree growing on the other
side, sir, which some one must have climbed."
" How can you tell that, Walters ? "
" Some twigs are broken and some branches are
swept aside. It's my opinion, sir," added Walters,
in quite an official way, " that some one climbed the
top 01" the wall by that tree and came down on this
side by the ladder."
126 THE BLACK IMAGE.
"I knew it, I knew it," cried Melicent, clapping
her hands. " Mam'zel Clarice ! "
" Ah ! " said Walters sagaciously, for in common
with the rest of the village he had heard the story
of the woman's assault on the Squire. " Well I don't
say anything yet miss, as we must have facts to go
on. Best say nothing either, miss. Please wait here
with the doctor until me and Mr. Darch come back.
I dessay we'll learn something over the wall."
The roundabout way to the hither side of the
Sanctuary was down the avenue, through the gates,
and along by the river. It was this way that
Melicent and the others had come on the night of
the visit. But at the back of the house there was a
small gate, through which a quicker path could be
gained to the wood encircling the walls. Through
this Walters and the barrister went, and soon found
themselves in the gloomy grove of densely growing
trees which gave the Hall its name. This was
Thor's Wood, and in Saxon da3^s had been dedicated
to the Norse Thunder-god. His altar was tradition-
ally reported to have stood where the statue of
Hecate was now standing. Perhaps that was the
reason why Amyas Hurst placed the image there
knowing the sinister significance of the spot.
Darch and the policeman threaded their way
through the trees and the brushwood carefully, and
came finally to the chestnut tree, supposed to have
been climbed. As Walters had placed the clue in
his hands. Miles looked about with keen, observant
eyes for traces of some person having been in the
wood. There were plenty, for the person — presum-
ably Mam'zel Clarice — had not taken much care, or
indeed any care, to hide the trail. Broken branches,
torn off leaves, trodden grass, showed plainly that a
human being had been there, since in so civilised a
locality no destroying animals could have entered the
A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 127
woodland. The boughs of the chestnut tree grew
close to the ground and it was easily climbed.
Walters would have climbed it at once, but that
Darch prevented him.
" Better wait until Inspector Jupp does that,"
he said warningly, " he will want to get first-hand
evidence, and you can put him on the track of it.
We had better see how the assassin got into the
wood, by following the outward trail."
Walters thought that this was a good idea, so the
two men, followed the evidences of a path having
been forced through the undergrowth. Strictly
speaking, Jupp should have been the first to do this
also, but Darch was too impatient to wait. He
had been sensible in not letting Walters climb the
tree, but he was not sensible in following the out-
trail, since the passage of himself and the constable
might obliterate the traces left by the criminal.
However, not thinking of this, the two pushed their
way outward and soon gained the winding road
which skirted the Gren. And here Darch made a
discovery, which went far to excuse their hasty
usurping of Jupp's function.
*' See ! " said the barrister, pointing to some
beaten ground by the side of the road, half-encircled
by small bushes, " oil."
" Oil ! " Walters stared at the ground and noticed
certain iridescent tints which denoted that oil had
been spilt. " What of that, sir ? "
" It is Mam'zel Clarice after all who is guilty,"
said Darch, aloud.
" Why do you think so, sir ? " said Walters
dubiously, " 'cept that she said she'd stick the
Squire and tried to do it, if what they say in the
village is to be believed."
" Mam'zel Clarice intended to leave this place,
Walters, and did so last night on her motor-cycle.
128 THE BLACK IMAGE.
She was seen riding towards Brant. But she came
" How do you know, sir? "
" Because of this oil. The ground is too hard
to show any marks of her machine, but she rested
her cycle here, against these bushes, while she climbed
the tree, descended the ladder and entered the house
to stab the Squire. The oil of the machine dripped.
Can't you see it."
Walters fell on his knees and put his nose to the
iridescent patch. " Yes, sir, and smell it too. It's
oil, sure enough. Are you sure it comes from
Mam'zel Clarice's motor-cycle ? "
" Well, she has one you know, and the Squire has
been murdered with the same knife as she previousl}'-
snatched from the wall. I haven't the least doubt
in my mind, but what she is guilt^r."
" It looks like it," admitted Walters cautiously,
" but if she came here on a motor-cycle, she went
away on one."
" There's no doubt of that. Well ? "
" It'll be hard to catch her," growled Walters,
scratching his head.
" Harder than you know," said Darch grimly,
and thinking of the woman's association with the
French spy system, about which Melicent had told
him, " she's as clever as a fox."
Walters nodded, and as they returned by the
same way to the study, he openly wished that his
Inspector would come. " Seems to me as this case
is getting a bit beyond me," said the man, perplexed.
" Oh, I don't know. You have found out a lot,"
said Miles, giving all the praise to the man, which
indeed he well deserved.
To the policeman's relief the Inspector was already
on the spot when the two seekers got back to the
house. Jupp had motored over the moment he
A NINE DAY'S WONDER. 129
received the wire, and as the distance to Grenacer
was not very great and his machine was a swift one,
he had arri\'ed ver^^ quickly. Walters gladly handed
over all responsibility to his superior officer and
made his report. It was received with thanks, for
Jupp recognised the value of the information. In
his turn he climbed the ladder, but, unlike Walters,
he descended the chestnut tree, and then followed
the outward trail as the others had done. When
he returned it was to say that he felt sure about the
presence of the motor-cycle on the evidence of the
spilt oil. Then he proceeded to examine those
present, and soon obtained all information about
Mam'zel Clarice. The look on his face when he
concluded his examination showed plainly that he
believed the woman to be guilty. And, indeed,
people have been condemned on less positive
" Now I'm going to the telegraph office to wire
a description of the woman to various centres.
I'll use the telephone also. Meanwhile, Walters, you
look after things together with the three men I have
brought over. And that image "
" It's the cause of all the trouble," said Melicent,
" Ah," said Jupp, staring at Hecate, " I've heard
something of the stor\'."
M E L^I C E N T ' S V O W.
IN due time Ralph Hurst arrived, as fast as train
and motor could bring him to the scene of the
crime. His clothes were in disorder, his face
was haggard and pale, while he could hardly speak
when he entered the drawing-room in which many
people were assembled. Melicent was there, looking
sorrowful and worn in her black dress, and Miles
was beside her, anxiously attending to her every
want. Smith was also present, and several of the
servants and Inspector Jupp, who was asking them
questions. Walters was on guard over the study
and the body, while the other policemen were in
various parts of the house. For the time being,
military law, as it were, was established and Jupp
held the reins of power. Ralph, covered with dust,
looking more untidy and huge than ever, rushed
into the room, and asked a question generally.
" Print ! Where is Print ? " he demanded, " she
sent me a telegram saying that my brother had been
murdered. They say it is true in Serbery and in
the village. Tell me, some one, if it is true ? "
" Calm yourself Mr. Hurst," said the Inspector,
who recognised him at once, " It is true. Why
should you doubt it ? "
" It seems so impossible after all my care."
MELICENT'S VOW. 131
" Your care." Jupp looked the big man full in
the face, " What do you mean ? "
" My niece knows what I mean and so does Darch,"
said Ralph in a heart-broken tone, and sat down
to hide his face.
" Mr. Hurst means that he took all precautions to
prevent Miss Brown from getting into the house.
He feared lest she should injure the Squire,"
explained Miles quickly.
" Miss Brown. Is that the woman known as
Mam'zel Clarice ? "
" Yes ! Her name is Clarice Brown and she is
French on the mother's side. As she taught French
in the Serbery School, she preferred to be known as
Mademoiselle Clarice. Locally she was known as
" I knew she would do it if she could," groaned
Ralph, raising his head, " ever since she snatched
that knife from the wall and tried to kill him I knew
she would, and I took all precautions to keep her out
of the house. How, in Heaven's name, did she
enter ? "
" Climbed over the wall of that place where the
image is," explained the Inspector, " but if you
knew that she was bent upon murdering your
brother why did you not have her arrested ? "
" Because she promised to go away. My brother
himself did not wish for her arrest. She is the
daughter of his old tutor, for whom he had a great
regard, and he wished to deal as gently as possible
with her in spite of her uncontrolled temper, which
led her to assault him."
" Why did she assault him ? "
Ralph rose and staggered to the door. " I'll
answer your questions later. I want to see Frint
now, and learn all about the matter."
" Mrs. Frint has been examined and is so over-
132 THE BLACK IMAGE.
come that she has gone to He down," said Jupp,
briskly, " and I think you had better he down also
for a hour, Mr. Hurst. I'll talk to you later and
then vou can tell mc all about this woman. You
" I feel ill. My poor brother, Melicent," he
turned back to embrace and kiss his niece, " only
you and I are left of the family. We must revenge
your father's death and get that vile creature
" Don't ! Don't," said Darch, M'hen Melicent
burst out crying, " you upset her, and she has
enough to bear as it is."
" We all have enough to bear and more than
enough," muttered the big man in a dazed tone.
" But I'll see Frint ! Poor Frint, she must be
heart-broken. And to think that I was away.
Oh, if I had only stayed ; if I had only remained
to protect my brother."
" Don't give way, Mr. Hurst," Jupp took the
man's arm and guided him towards the door, " lie
down until you feel better."
" Yes, I'll lie down, but I'll see Frint first," said
the man with a groan, and he stumbled out of the
room in a dazed fashion.
" I think I'll go to him," said Melicent, rising
and drying her eyes.
" No, leave him to himself until he grows calmer,"
said Miles, sensibly, " you are too sensitive yourself
to console him. You'll only break down and then
he will feel worse than ever. And I don't think
that Mrs. Frint will do him much good either,"
finished Darch, grimly, for he was annoyed, for
MeUcent's sake, that the housekeeper had not kept
So MeUccnt, with Darch 's arm round her, sat
quietly listening to the examination of the servants.
MELICEXT'S VOW. 133
Jupp had already heard the story told b}^ Miss
Hurst and her lover, and was in possession of all
necessary facts from the time of Mam'zel's ill-omened
visit to the hour when she had presumably left
on her motor-cycle for Brant. He had learned also
about her attempt to get the postern-key and how it
was foiled by Jum. The page, as Frederick Marr
— so he was solemnly addressed b}- the Inspector —
confirmed the story of the young couple in every
particular. He and the other servants declared
that they had heard no cry for help on the previous
night, and that the fact of the murder did not
become known until the discovery made by ]\Irs.
Frint when she went into the study at seven in the
morning. The housekeeper had already told all
she knew, and her evidence, together with that
of the servants and the lovers, placed the Inspector
in possession of all that was to be known. It only
remained for him to question Ralph, and then he
would be in a position to supply the jury at the
inquest with all available evidence.
Jupp took notes of the answers to his many
questions, then dismissed the scared servants and
afterwards gave instructions to Dr. Smith about the
post-mortem. Then he advised Melicent to lie
down, which she gladly did, being worn out with the
events of the da}". Darch, the Inspector retained
by his side, as he wished for his opinion. Miles
was quite willing to give it, although, he privately
thought that the whole case was such plain sailing
that it needed little explanation from him.
Jupp gave orders that the body of the Squire
should be taken to his bedroom, which was
accordingly done, and then asked Darch to come
to the study. After the removal of the body this
was put straight, and no trace remained of the grim
scene save the stain of blood on the carpet and the
134 THE BLACK IMAGE.
absence of the Afghan knife from the trophy of
arms over the fireplace.
" What do you think of it all, Mr. Darch ? "
asked Jupp abruptly, when they were alone, and as
he spoke his eyes rested on the Black Image.
" What can I think, but that this woman is
guilty," said Darch promptly.
" I am of that opinion myself. But what I wish
you to explain is, why this crime should be associated
with that statue."
" I can't say, and in fact I can't sec how the two
" Well," drawled Jupp, still staring at Hecate,
" the news of how that hand had closed travelled
even to Serbery, together with an account of the
Hurst legend. A friend of mine who takes an
interest in psychic matters, told me the story and
was wildly excited when he heard that the hand
was closed. I laughed at him. I don't laugh now."
Jupp wheeled and looked at the barrister searchingly
— so much that Darch expressed surprise.
" Are you superstitious, Mr. Inspector ? " he
asked with a shrug.
" On the contrary I am very matter-of-fact, and
that is why I don't laugh now at the closing of that
statue's hand. The legend says that when it closed
it would bring misfortune to the Hursts. It certainly
has done so."
" Well ? " queried Darch considerably mystified.
" Well," echoed the officer impatiently, " can't
you see that there is a connection between the
image and the crime. Why should the hand be
closed unless the person who closed it intended
" Oh ! " Darch's breath was taken away by this
supposition. " Then you don't believe that the
statue closed it's hand itself? "
MELICENT'S VOW. 135
" No. Nor do 3'ou ; nor does any one except a
fool. But why should the warning liave been given ?
That is what I wish to know."
" I can't tell you. The thing is beyond me."
" Of course the hand being lead has been bent
into the new shape," mused the Inspector. " It was
closed by some one who knew the legend."
" The whole village knew it."
" Mam'zel Clarice also."
Darch shrugged. " Presumably. When the hand
was closed every one talked about it you know."
" Yes. But the legend must have been known
to Mam'zel Clarice beforehand, if she closed the
hand by bending the fingers."
" But did she ? "
" Wei], she committed the crime we know,"
Jupp twisted his lean brown face into a wry smile,
" the evidence goes to prove beyond all doubt that
she is guilty. She must have known the legend and
she must have closed the hand."
" Well if you think so "
" What else am I to think ? Unless there is
some one who knew of her intention, and strove to
give the late Squire a warning sign. Do you know
of any one who would do that ? "
" No. And the murder may not have been
" This woman tried to kill the Squire before ? "
" Oh yes," admitted Darch, frankly. " I was
present. But she made the attempt in a fit of
passion because he refused her ridiculous claim to
marry him, as Miss Hurst told you. She miglit
have come to urge that claim again and then when
he refused — as he certainly must have done — she
might have lost her temper again and " — Darch
spread out his hands to show that further explanation
was wholly unnecessary.
136 THE BLACK IMAGK.
"I see all that," said Jupp thoughtfully, "all
the same, I hold to my opinion that there is some
connection between the crime and the image. What
that connection is I wish to find out."
" I can't help you. But here," Miles turned as
the study door opened, " here is Mr. Hurst. He
may be able to throw light on the subject."
Ralph entered looking pale and stern and much
older than his years. As a rule, owing to his jovial
nature, he appeared young and full of vitality — a
boy who had never grown up. But there was nothing
of this eternal youth about his looks to-day. Sitting
down with a sigh, he rested his large hands on his
knees and shook his head sadly at the two men.
" Poor Print has told me how she found my poor
brother dead," he said in a slow, heav}^ waj^ " she
is broken-hearted, as she has known Edgar and I
since we were all children together. But I must not
give way to grief," he added with an effort to pull
himself together, " you wish to ask me questions,
Mr. Inspector. Here I am at your service. By
the way, what light can I throw on the subject,
and what is the subject ? I heard Mr. Darch
speaking when I entered. What have you been
talking about ? "
" That Black Image." Jupp pointed through the
Ralph started. " That image," he frowned
" I wish it was melted down and destroyed," he
cried vehemently, " it has brought all this trouble
down on us if the legend is to be believed."
" Do you believe it, Mr. Hurst ? " asked the
" As a story, yes — as a truth, no. All the same
it is strange that the hand should close just before
this misfortune has come. So far, the legend ha^
MELICENT'S VOW. 137
" Any person vdio knew the legend could close
the hand by bending the lead and then bring mis-
fortune to pass," said Jupp pointedly.
" I never thought of that," said Ralph looking
startled again, as well he might when such a theory
was placed before him.
" Well, I have thought of it, and as Mam'zel Clarice
is proved plainly to be guilty, I believe she has
something to do with the matter of the statue."
" But why should she trouble to close the hand,
if she intended to murder my brother ? " asked
Ralph, looking puzzled.
" That's what I was talking to Mr. Darch about,"
said Jupp smartly, " the question is did she know
the family legend ? "
" Oh yes," replied Hurst unexpectedly. " When
she visited here after her arrival in Grenacer, Edgar
saw her in this room. She noticed the statue and
afterwards I told her the story."
" There ! " said Jupp ^riumphanth^ " what do
you think of that, Mr. Darch ? "
" I think you are a very clever man, Mr. Inspector,
to have put two and two together. All the same,
I can't see any more than Mr. Hurst can see, why
she should have given this warning of misfortune
when she intended to bring about the same. To
say nothing of the fact, that I tried myself to
straighten the fingers of that leaden hand and
couldn't. How then could she bend them ? "
" How indeed ? " said Ralph quickly, " unless
she used some instrument. And as a member of
the French Secret Service, she knew many tricks."
" French Secret Service," repeated the Inspector
sharply, " what's that ? "
"Ah I forgot. You wish to ask me questions.
Well, then, before you begin I shall tell you what I
know of this woman. When she came over here to
log THE BLACK IMAGE.
ask for assistance, Edgar requested me to learn
what I could about her life in Paris. I went over
there at his expense and found out a great deal."
Jupp was greatly interested in the story which
Ralph now proceeded to tell him, and took m.any
notes, while he asked many questions. The result
of the new inform.ation confirmed him in his opinion
that Mam'zel Clarice was guilt}' not only of the murder
but of closing the hand of the image. It was just
the kind of melodramatic thing which would appeal
to the French side of her na.ture. When he replaced
his pocket-book in its usual place next to his heart,
the Inspector Iclt that he now knew everything
necessar}/ to bring home the crime to the woman.
But the question was, how to catch her.
And it was Ralph who asked the question.
" Oh I've wired and telephoned her description
everywhere," said Jupp, standing up to take his
leave, " she won't go far before she's in the hands of
" I have my doubts of that," said Hurst dryly.
" Mam'zel hasn't been in the French Secret Service
Ralph's doubts proved to be correct, for although
the police w'ere on the alert, and a description of
the woman was circulated everywhere, no sign
of her was found. She had disappeared as entirely
as if the earth had swallowed her up, and when
the day of the inquest came Mam'zel Clarice was
still at large. Jupp was vexed, in spite of his success
in placing before the twelve good and lawful men,
so interesting and fully-stated a case. There was
quite a crowd at the inquest from the surrounding
countryside, for the dead man was well-known,
and the connection of the famil}' legend with the
matter gave uncommon interest to the proceedings.
In fact, the fame of the Black Image had travelled to
MELICENT'S VOW. ' 139
London, and several leading newspapers sent down
reporters to see what was taking place. And the
reports lost nothing in the telling, since the journal-
ists endeavoured, and with success, to make them as
picturesque as possible by introducing the occult
and the mysterious to flavour the prosaic occurrence
of the murder. The crime and its psychic surround-
ings was quite a nine days' wonder, even in a city
which usuall}/ forgets sensational things in nine
minutes. And of course a portrait of Hecate, with
her closed hand, appeared in the picture papers.
The evidence at the inquest was so plain that
the jury had little difficulty in arriving at a sensible
conclusion. A verdict of wilful murder was brought
in against Clarice Brown, and with the consent of
Melicent a reward was offered for her apprehension.
It was a considerable sum, for the girl was determined
to bring the murderess of her father to the dock.
And she wished this the more so, as she still felt
that she had not been so affectionate a daughter to
her feeble father as she should have been. It was
in vain that Miles assured her to the contrary,
pointing out that she had done her best to soften
the late Squire's rocky self-centred nature. Poor
Melicent admitted that her father had been difficult
in many ways but none the less condemned herself
for an imaginary neglect, which no one but herself
After the inquest followed the funeral, and to that
came crowds of morbid people as well as many, who
really wished to pay respect to the Hurst family.
The Squire was laid to rest in the famil}^ vault under
the shadow of the square tower, and Mr. James
eulogised the deceased, as a good landlord, a good
friend, and good man, Edgar Hurst was certainly
all that in a negative way, as he had never harmed
any one and on the whole had used his position and
T40 THE BLACK IMAGE.
his money in a kindly way. He had been neither
a good hater, nor a good lover, but something
between the two, when his feeble will did exercise
itself to express his feelings. He was not black
and he was not white ; but simply a kind of grey
colour, which meant nothing. So the world, as
represented by the village of Grenacer was neither
the better nor the worse for his passing over.
Everybody had dry eyes at that funeral.
When all was over Miles returned to the Hall
with Melicent and her uncle in order to hear the will
read. Darch was secretly surprised that Lady
Gibson had not made a point of coming to see if
the dead man had left her anything. But prostrated
by the complete failure of her plans, the scheming
matron was ill in London, and only sent a wreath
to the funeral on behalf of herself and her daughter.
Sylvia had written a letter of sympathy to Melicent
and found it the most difficult epistle she had ever
written. However, she said what she could, and
Melicent knowing how hard it was for her friend
to express herself under the circumstances, was
quite content with what was said. So beyond
j\liles, there was no one present to hear the will read
since he alone had any connection with the family
through his engagement to Melicent. She sat
beside him feeling very much comforted by his
presence and listened to the lawyer while holding
her lover's hand.
The will was very short. It left a few legacies to
the servants with a particularly large one for Mrs.
Print ; an annuity of three hundred a year to
Ralpli, and the rest of the property entirely to
Melicent. And as she would not attain the age of
one and twenty for three months, Ralph was
appointed her guardian mean^^"hilc. W'licn she did
come of age the will directed that he was to hand
MELICENT'S VOW. • 141
over the property to his niece without reserve of any
kind and that she was to be her own mistress, dealing
with it as she pleased. Nothing could have been
more concise than the document, so it took a very
short time to read.
W'hen the lawyer departed, Ralph took Melicent's
hand and kissed her solemnly on the forehead in a
most affectionate w^ay. " My dear," he said, " I
am glad that 3'our father has made so sensible a will."
" I wish he had left 3'ou a larger income," she said
sadly, and touched by the affection of her uncle,
"but I can give you more, uncle."
" I don't want it my dear. All I ask is to remain
in my library with my belo\'ed books. Though of
course when you marry " — he looked at Darch.
" I'm sure Melicent and I will want j^ou to stay
here always," said Miles hastih', seeing that he was
expected to say something.
" Well, well. I am glad. And I wish iMelicent
that you M^ould marry ]\Iiles at once. It will assuage
your grief for your father my dear."
"Oh, uncle, how can j-ou speak like that. I cant
marry until my year of mourning has expired and
I don't think Miles expects that I should."
" You will do exactly as you please dearest."
" And suppose I don't marry you at all."
" Melicent ! "
" I mean it ^lilcs. For I shall not marry you
until you bring the woman who killed my father
to justice. I have vowed that to myself."
AFTER the storm came the cahn, and Hfe at
the Hall went on much the same as it had done
before the tragic death of the Squire. Still
there was a difference, as every one was much more
subdued. Ralph, no longer laughed as jovially as
he had done. Melicent brooded over imaginary
shortcomings towards her dead father, and Mrs.
Frint became suddenly old. The change was more
apparent in her than in any of the others. Formerly,
though a woman of fifty-four, she had never looked
her age, owing to her bright disposition and comely
face, together with her gay clothes and bustling
habits. But after the tragedy, she, who used to be
stout, became thin, and her face took on a terrified
expression, which was accentuated by her black
dress. Like Melicent she was in deep mourning
and the dismal garb did not suit her. Although
desiring all respect to be paid to the dead, Melicent
sometimes wished that the housekeeper had retained
her gay frocks, genial smile, and brisk habits. For
as she was now, Mrs. Frint proved to be a thorough
wet-blanket, and went about depressing every one.
And, indeed, there seemed to be a dark cloud
resting on the Hall. Ralph remained in his library
even longer than usual, Melicent moped about the
SMALL NOTHINGS. • 1^3
house, feeling tliorouglily miserable, and even
the servants went on with their work in a half-
hearted way, whispering and nodding as if they
expected further calamities to befall the Hursts.
As a matter of fact, this was just what they did
expect, for the hand of Hecate was still closed, and
that — as every one was positive from experience —
meant that troubles were not yet at an end. But
what further disaster, they looked for, it was im-
possible to say. And throughout August the
atmosphere of the house grew more and more
dismal, until it seemed to be haunted and cursed.
The villagers believed that it was and ascribed the
unseen terror to the influence of the sinister Black
Image, which still imposed its ominous spell on
Mrs. Frint could not bear the sight of it. In
common with others, she was intensely superstitious,
and insisted that it was responsible for all the
trouble. Formerly she occupied a bedroom, on
the second story of the house, the window of which
looked directly into the Sanctuary. But the
sight of the accursed image was too much for her,
so she moved up to the third story of the Hall,
which consisted mainly of disused garrets. One
of ^these at the very back of the house, she made
her|bedroom, refusing to change it, in spite of
Melicent's expostulations. Ralph himself, after his
first outburst of sympathy with the old servant over
his brother's death, took no notice of Mrs. Frint, and
seemed inclined to blame her vaguely for not having
protected Edgar from danger. Poor Mrs. Frint
objected to this unjust condemnation, shadowy as it
was, as she said very truly, that it had been out
of her power to divert the disaster. But Ralph
held to his opinion, although it was expressed in
manner rather than in words, and rarely spoke
i-,'4 THE BLACK IMAGE.
to the wan woman. Indeed he had little occasion to,
since Melicent, as the young mistress of the house,
controlled domestic affairs and gave orders. But
the attitude of the late Squire's brother did not
tend to raise Mrs. Frint's spirits, which became
lower than ever.
Jum was the only lively person about the place.
With the mercurial disposition of bo3/hood, he
speedily recovered from the effects of the death, and
darted about the house with his usual vivacity.
In his bright blue suit with many buttons, he looked
perfectly cheerful, and invariably had a merry grin
on his face, which was quite a relief after the solemn
visages of the others. The boy — as Melicent thought
— seemed to have something on his mind ; but
that something was of an agreeable nature, for he
looked brightly important and seemed to consider
himself a person of great consequence. This might
have been induced by the memory of the prominent
part he had played in watching Mam'zel Clarice ;
but, as she had succeeded in her object, in spite
of Jum's spying, this could scarcely have been the
case. He had little to congratulate himself on, with
regard to his work in that direction. Ralph rather
tartly told him so on one occasion when the boy's
whistling annoyed him, but the reproof did not
seem to damp Jum's spirits. All he did was to keep
out of Ralph's way, and as Hurst now took no more
notice of him than he did of Mrs. Print, this was easy.
Melicent was surprised to see how indifferent her
uncle was to the lad in whom he had formerly taken
so deep an interest. Jum's education was no longer
superintended and he was left to get along as best
he could b}^ himself.
Miles came pretty regularly to the Hall, but was
not by any means so cheerful a visitor as he had
been. Since his determination to make the best
SMALL NOTHINGS. 145
of himself, he had been working hard in town at his
profession, and thus was weary when he came back
to Grenacer in the evening. He now saw chances
of succeeding as a barrister, as he had induced
various soHcitors to promise him briefs dealing with
minor cases ; but he saw also that, to succeed in
pleasing the lawyers, he would have to put his
shoulder to the wheel, and burn the midnight oil.
Therefore, employed as he was with law books and
briefs, and Acts of Parliament, he sometimes stayed
away from the Hall longer than Melicent approved
of. She felt that the whole situation had changed
for the worse, and said as much to her lover.
The conversation took place in the drawing-
room one evening, when a chill in the misty
September air hinted that autumn had arrived.
So damp and dismal was it out of doors, and so
melancholy in the house, that the girl had ordered
a fire to be lighted. Before this she was seated
with Miles, and facing him across the hearthrug.
They were alone after dinner, for, as usual, Ralph
had retired to his beloved library. And a silence
had ensued after a few attempts at conversation,
for Miles was tired after an unusually hard day's
work in his chambers, and did not feel disposed to be
an agreeable rattle, after the fashion of young Marlow
in Goldsmith's comedy. The silence got on Melicent 's
nerves in spite of the cheerful fire, and her excellent
dinner. To Darch's amazement she hid her face in
her hands and burst into tears. In a moment, he
left his chair and knelt at her feet trying to remove
" My dearest girl, what is the matter ? " he asked,
as she resisted this particular form of comfort.
" I'm so wretched," sobbed Melicent vehemently,
" ever since poor father's death things have been
146 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" How dreadful ? " asked Miles, more for the
sake of keeping up the conversation than because
he had any need to inquire.
" Oh you know, Miles. Uncle Ralph is either in
the library or in town — he goes twice a week now
and often three times. Mrs. Print is as dismal
as I don't know what, and the servants go about
whispering, as if they expected more trouble, while
Sylvia hasn't written me for ever so long. And you
are not the best of company either. It's all horrid.
I wish I was at the bottom of the sea."
" My dear." Miles put his arm round her waist,
still kneeling, removed her two hands from her face
and placed his dry cheek next to her wet one. " I
know I'm rather quiet. But I am working so hard."
" You shouldn't work so hard," said Melicent,
" Oh, my darling, when you wish me to make a
name how can you say that. Unless I work hard,
you'll never be the wife of the Lord Chancellor, you
" I don't want to be if the Lord Chancellor is to
be so taken up with his work that he has nothing
to say to me."
" Oh, but he won't be," protested Miles, laughing.
" I'm only desperately hard at work now to make my
name. When I have made it, then I'll have plenty
of time to make you happy."
" But it's the present time that makes me so
unhappy, Miles. And you'll be years and years
and years before j^ou are famous."
Miles stifled a laugh. " That doesn't show much
belief in my talents, does it dear ? Besides if you are
having an unhappy time, I am having one also."
" Oh, Miles."
"Yes, I am," he persisted, "you refuse to
SMALL NOTHINGS. 14;^
" Only until you capture that horrid woman."
" And how am I to capture her ? She has
vanished completely, and in spite of all the efforts
of the police, she can't be found. I saw Inspector
Jupp at Serbery yesterday and he has grave doubts
if she ever will be found. In that case are you to
remain a maid and I a bachelor for the rest of our
natural lives ? "
" I don't feel that it is right for me to marry
while my father's death remains unavenged."
" I should be only too glad to avenge it dearest
Mam'zel Clarice well deserves to pay the penalty
of her dreadful crime. But I can't find her ; nor
can Jupp, nor the entire police force of the Three
Kingdoms, to say nothing of the French police."
" What have they got to do with it ? "
" A great deal. Jupp thought that Mam'zel
might have evaded the English police to take refuge
in Paris, which after all is where she intended to go.
Therefore he communicated with the French police.
They can't trace her anywhere. So you see that
if she doesn't appear — and, so far as I can see, there
is no likelihood of her appearing — we can never
marry. So I am as unhappy as you are."
Melicent twisted her handkerchief. " I don't like
being miserable," she said, after a pause.
" Nor do I," retorted Miles pithily.
" And I was rather silly to say what I did say."
" V^ery silly indeed." He kissed her. " Unsay it."
" Not altogether. That would be disrespectful to
father's memory. But I'll unsay some of it."
" That's better than nothing. Well ? "
" If you 6 n't find ^Mam'zel Clarice in a 3^ear I'll
marry you. "
Miles kissed her again. " I shall keep you to
that. You will marry mc when your year of
mourning is at an end."
148 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Yes ; I promise that. And Mam'zel ? "
" I'll do my best to find her meanwhile. But my
hard work, which makes me so dull a companion ? "
" Go on with it, for my sake," said Melicent softly.
" You aren't so very dull after all."
" Good girl ! " Miles arose and stretched his tall
figure to its greatest height. " I'm glad we have
arrived at a compromise. And, to reward you for
being more sensible, I'll tell you some pleasant
" About Mam'zel Clarice ? "
" That wouldn't be pleasant. No ; about Toby."
" And Sylvia ? " Melicent grew excited.
" Well, what concerns the one concerns the other.
It seems that Toby has an uncle, who has discovered
him, and wants to help him. This uncle is in the
Norway trade and has made a heap of money out
of wood, or turpentine, or something of that sort.
He proposes to adopt Toby as his heir, if he marries
with the approval of the aforesaid uncle," said Miles,
speaking in quite a legal way. j
" Oh, I'm sure he will approve of Sylvia."
" So Toby thinks, and so do I. But things are not
yet arranged, so don't say anything to Sylvia in the
meantime. She deserves some kind of punishment
for not having written, to you."
" It's that horrid mother of hers. I don't blame
Sylvia. Besides, she wrote to me immediately after
father's death. I am fond of Sylvia."
" So is Toby, and I think if his choice satisfies this
wealthy uncle, as I believe it will, that Lady Gibson
will be only too glad to accept him as a son-in-law."
At this moment Ralph entered the room. He
was in evening dress, and looked quite smart. In-
deed, since Edgar's death the surviving brother had
begun to pay much more attention to his clothes and
general appearance. He rubbed his hands, cast
SMALL NOTHINGS. 149
a keen glance at the lovers and advanced towards
" I'm horribly cold and feel rather miserable," he
said, with a shiver.
" That is what j\Ielicent has been saying," re-
marked Darch lightly,
" Cold, with this splendid fire." Ralph spread
out his hands to warm them.
" No ; I said I felt miserable," observed the girl.
" Things are so dull here that I don't know what to
do with myself."
" You are hipped, and no wonder," said her uncle,
hunkering down to bring his large hands closer to the
blaze. " But it's your own fault, Meliccnt. WTiy
do you stay here when Lady Gibson is ready to
receive you ? ' '
" Is she, uncle ? "
" Yes. Don't you remember how you wished to
go to town immediately before your father's death ?
I told you that I would speak to Lady Gibson. I
did when I was in London, and she says she will only
be too pleased if you will pay her a visit. You had
to postpone that visit for a few weeks on account
of what has happened, but why not pay it now ? "
" I think I will. Not that I like that horrid Lady
Gibson, but I am fond of Sylvia.
" I'm fond of her also," said Hurst, unexpectedly.
" Oh, you always were," said his niece easily.
" And she likes you."
" But I am talking seriously. I love Sylvia."
" Uncle ! " Melicent stared at him and Miles
Hurst rose to shake himself like a big Newfound-
land dog and laughed in his old jovial manner.
" WTiy should you both look so surprised ? " he
said, raising his thick eyebrows. " It was my
loyalty to Edgar that made me hold my tongue.
150 THE BLACK IMAGE.
But I loved Sylvia from the first moment I saw her,
and wished very much to marry her. In spite of
my white hair I am only fifty-one, not too old to
make her my wife, I hope."
" But she loves Toby," cried Melicent, who never
thought that this elderly man possessed a vein of
" Well, she can't marry Toby. He's got no
" You aren't very rich either, uncle. At least
not rich enough to satisfy Lady Gibson."
Ralph cast such a black look on his niece that
Miles, who was watching him, started with amaze-
ment. It suddenly occurred to him that the man's
nature was by no means so jovial as it seemed
to be. Melicent's remark touched him nearly, and
he winced. A moment later the black look dis-
appeared and the jovial laugh rang out. But
now, to ■ Miles' s ears, the laughter did not ring
so true. The mask — if it was a mask — ^had slipped,
and Darch had caught a glimpse of something he
did not like. Hurst saw his amazed face and at
once apologised. " Excuse my scowling," he said
amiably, " but Melicent's remark made me remember
how difficult Lady Gibson is to deal with. I had
forgotten her for the moment. As to my not being
rich, that is quite true ; but with what I have
myself from my mother, and this annuity coming
from my brother, I shall have at least seven hundred
a year. That mightn't satisfy Lady Gibson, but it
" Only marriage with Toby will satisfy Sylvia,"
said Melicent positively.
" But he has no money, as I said before. Seven
hundred a year is better than what Smith can offer."
" Toby will have plenty of money soon," said
Miles, determined to urge his friend's case. " I am
SMALL NOTHINGS. 151
not breaking any confidence in telling you that
Toby has found a rich uncle who intends to make
him his heir."
" Oh ! " Hurst looked blank at this, and it was
only with an effort that he prevented the black look
from again overspreading his face. " That's bad
news for me. Does Lady Gibson know ? "
" No ; and Toby doesn't intend to tell her just
" Well, then, IMelicent, when you go to town don't
you tell Lady Gibson the amount of my money.
Say nothing about 3^our father's will, or about nty
other income. In this way Lady Gibson, knowing
nothing of m}- position nor the true position of Smith,
will be able to choose between us without bias."
" I shall not say anything, uncle. But if slic
thinks 3'ou are poor, and as she knows that Toby is
poor, she'll make Sylvia marry some one else."
" I think I can prevent that," retorted Ralph,
setting his jaw. " Lady Gibson is clever, but she
can be managed by one who knows her weak points."
" \\liat are they ? " inquired Miles, wondering at
this confidence. " I have never seen any."
" You will after I have spoken to her," said Ralph
grimly. " And, meanwhile, I have your promise to
say nothing, Meliccnt."
" You have my promise," she answered ; " and I
shall be glad to get away from Grenacer for a time."
" Stay away as long as you like," said Ralph, in
quite his old genial manner, which now, in some
vague way, Darch mistrusted. " Mrs. Frint can
look after things here as usual, and I'll run up to
town occasionally. Now that I am your guardian,
Meliccnt, and have to go out into the world, you can
see that I am getting quite smart in my looks." He
laughed and turned round. " I intend to give up
my library for the time being, and to go a-wooing,
152 THE BLACK IMAGE.
like the frog in the song. First your wedding, and
then mine — that is, if you ever intend to marry Miles,
seeing what a silly vow you made."
" I have changed my mind about the vow," said
]\Ielicent, colouring and slipping her hand into that
of Darch. " There seems to be no chance of Mam'zcl
being discovered, so I have promised to marry Miles
in a year."
Ralph frowned. " When you make a solemn vow
you shouldn't break it, child. I am glad, all the
same, that you have reconsidered the matter. A
year," he nursed his chin in his hand musingly,
" well, much may happen in a year."
" What do you mean ? " demanded the barrister
sharply, for he did not like the tone in which this
" I mean that Sylvia and I may be married before
the year is out," laughed Hurst, " unless, of course,
there is more trouble to come from Hecate. The
hand is still closed, remember."
" Such rubbish," said Darch rouglily, while
" Of course it is. No sensible person believes the
story save this foolish girl who told it."
" Well, trouble did come after the hand was closed,
" Oh, that was a mere coincidence. Or, perhaps,
Jupp's theory is correct."
" Wliat is it ? " asked the girl curiously.
" Never mind. It doesn't matter. But if you
are so afraid of this statue, Melicent, and it infects
you with fear, as it seems to do, why not have it
taken away and melted down ? "
" No ! No ! No ! " cried Melicent forcibly.
" That would do away with the luck of the Hursts."
" And a good thing, too, if the luck is to be what
it has been lately," said Hurst, with a ponderous
SMALL NOTHINGS. 153
shrug. " However, have it your own way. You
are the mistress here, or you will be in two months.
But I advise the melting down of that leaden
monstrosity, if only to remove your obsession."
" I think it would be a good thing to do," urged
Miles, agreeing with the man. " It's not a pretty
object, Melicent, and its influence is bad."
" Bad or good, I intend to leave it alone," she said
firmly. " I believe that some day the hand will
open and that all will be well."
" BuL the hand is still closed," said Ralph, " and
if misfortune comes "
" Miles will help me to face it," finished Melicent,
" and prevent it."
" He couldn't do that in the past," said Ralph
significantly, " and by the past we must judge the
Two or three days later I^Ielicent went up to
London, having received in the meantime
a gushing letter from Lady Gibson, saying
how delighted she would be to see her. The girl
was glad to leave behind the gloomy house and its
gloomy inhabitants, for the shadow resting on the
Hall was darker than ever. Ralph, saying that he
would follow her at the end of the week, and bring
her back if she was then ready to return, placed her
in Darch's charge and told her to enjoy herself.
He vvas thoroughly amiable, and kindly attentive
to his niece, as he always was. Nevertheless,
Miles could not forget those dark looks in the
drawing-room, nor the significant remark which
closed the conversation. Somehow, and without
any apparent reason, he mistrusted the big man,
and longed to have an opportunity of confiding his
feeling to Toby. But for the last few days Toby
had been in London, attending to his uncle in a
most diplomatic manner.
Miles drove with Melicent in a taxi to Lady
Gibson's flat, which was in Kensington, and gave
her into the hands of that frivolous individual.
She wished the young man to remain and talk over
the Squire's death, but Darch, who had no great love
TOBY'S UNCLE. 155
for her, excused himself. He did not even care for
Melicent to be with her, and would have objected
to the visit being paid but for the presence of Sylvia.
Wliile Lady Gibson took Melicent to her room and
helped her to remove her things, Sj/lvia seized the
opportunity of speaking to the barrister. With a
glance at the drawing-room door she placed a warning
finger on her lips and spoke to him softly.
" I have seen Toby," she said, blushing, " and we
want you to help us."
" Of course Til help you. Wliat is it ? "
" Hush, not so loud. Mother is so suspicious.
Now that poor Mr. Hurst is dead she wants me to
marry an old Greek merchant who has plenty of
" And you ? " Miles was openly shocked at this
new scheme of the unscrupulous, fortune-hunting
" I am going to stick to Toby. I did my best to
obey mother with regard to poor Mr. Hurst, but now
I can't bring myself to sacrifice my life to her any
" I quite approve, if my approval is worth
" Oh, it is. Toby and I require your friendship,
and, what is more, we require a proof of it."
" Granted. Well ? "
" I want you to ask Melicent and me to see your
chambers in three days, during which time Toby
will see you to arrange a meeting between us.
Mother will never suspect anything, and then we can
talk over things."
Miles nodded. " I'll do what you ask with
pleasure. Miss Gibson."
" Sylvia ; you used to call me Sylvia."
" When you were engaged to my deceased father-
in-law that was to be. Somehow, through Melicent,
156 THE BLACK IMAGE.
I felt I had the right, as we were to be all one family.
You understand ? "
" Yes. But you can call me Sylvia still," she
" Very well, S3dvia. Go on."
" I have said all that I wanted to say," she
answered, " except that Toby is in London with
his uncle, and wants me to meet him. I don't
know why," Sylvia shook her head, looking
puzzled, " as I don't think his uncle is rich enough
to do anything for us. All the Smiths are so
" Oh, I expect Toby wants 3''ou to know his
family. First this uncle, and then his father and
mother and sisters. I tell you, what Sylvia, I'll
give you and Tob3% the uncle and Melicent, a little
luncheon in some Fleet Street restaurant. My
chambers are in the Temple, you know."
Sylvia clapped her hands. " Oh, that will be
" What will be delightful ? " Lady Gibson, followed
by Melicent, popped into the room unexpectedly.
" What is delightful ? " she asked, putting up her
lorgnette with a suspicious look, for she knew that
Darch was a friend of Toby's.
" Mr. Darch wants Melicent to come to luncheon
and visit his chambers the day after to-morrow, and
invites me to come also, mother."
" The day after to-morrow. Whsd are my engage-
ments? " said Lady Gibson, to the dismay of the
three, and went to an escritoire to take a little red
book out of the drawer. " M'm ! m'm ! " she said
pensively running her eye over the pages, "I'm
afraid I can't accept, Mr. Darch."
" Oh, Lady Gibson," cried Melicent, coming to the
rescue, " you won't stop Sylvia from coming with
me. I should so hate to go alone. There will only
TOBY'S UNCLE. I57
be our three selves," ended Melicent, ignorant that
Toby intended to be of the party.
" But your uncle is coming up to town the day
after to-morrow," said Lady Gibson. " He wants
to see me particularly, and of course will want to
" He sees enough of me," said Miss Hurst
ungratefully. " Do consent to let Sylvia come
Lady Gibson did not wish to make herself dis-
agreeable to Melicent now that the girl had her
father's money and the Hall. She might be, and
probably would be, a useful friend. " Well, I can't
resist your pleading, dear," she said, with a gracious
smile. " Sylvia shall go. But you will excuse me
from coming, Mr. Darch. I have to remain here to
see what Mr. Hurst wants."
" I am sorry you can't come," said Miles gravely,
and rather hypocritically ; " but duty, of course,
comes before pleasure."
"I'm a martyr to duty," sighed Lady Gibson.
" Au re voir for the present. Do come and see me
sometimes. But I hope," up went the lorgnette
again, and she again looked suspicious, " that
you have not invited that annoying Dr. Smith to
luncheon ? "
" No," said Darch, in perfect good faith, " I have
not invited him," and having scored a point in
Sylvia's favour, he took his departure.
That same day, believing that all was fair in love
and war, he telephoned to the hotel where his friend
was staying with the newly-found uncle. In answer
to the request to call, Toby came round straight away,
bubbling over with spirits, and perfectly certain that
his troubles and Sylvia's troubles would shortly be
at an end. He explained that his Uncle George
wished him to marry, and would supply him with
158 THE BLACK IMAGE.
the means of marrying, if lie approved of the future
Mrs. Horace Smith. He mentioned also that his
uncle was following him to Darch's chambers,
having overheard the telephone message. It ap-
peared that he wished to see what kind of a bosom
friend his nephew had,
" I hope he'll approve," said Miles, smiling, " of
me and Sylvia. By the way, she said that I could
call her Sylvia. Your uncle seems to be suspicious,
" Well, he's rather eccentric, because he was jilted
by a girl who married a rackety chap. If Sylvia
was a flirt and you an idler, uncle wouldn't give me a
sixpence. But as she's an angel, and you are an old
wiseacre, I expect he'll be quite satisfied and come
down with the dust. What do j-ou wish to see me
about, Miles ? "
" In the first place, I wish you to come to lun-
cheon the day after to-morrow at two o'clock
Melicent is coming and — Sylvia."
" Not Lady Gibson ? "
" No ! set your mind at rest. I managed to
prevent her coming by saying that I had not
invited j^ou. And when I said that," added Darch
laughing, " I really had not invited you, Toby, as
" Thanks ever so much, old man." Smith shook
hands warmly. " Can I bring my uncle ? It will
be a good chance for him to meet Sylvia."
" I'll ask your uncle to join us when he comes in."
" Good ! And your second object in wishing to
see me ? "
" Ah, that is more serious. You have been away
attending to this uncle of yours, Toby, and I have
not had a chance of asking you a question."
" Ask it now."
" \^aiat do you think of Ralph Hurst ? "
TOBY'S UNCLE. 159
Toby stared at his friend in amazement. " Wliy,
we've settled our mutual opinion of him long ago,
Miles. He's a good-hearted, decent old book-
Darch nodded. " So I thought ; so you thought.
But I am inclined to change my opinion, and wonder
if he isn't a wolf in sheep's clothing."
" WTiy should you think that ? " Smith was
more amazed than ever.
Darch rapidly told him of the conversation in the
drawing-room, of the dark looks cast at Mclicent,
and mentioned the significant remark about the
future being judged by the past, relative to
looking after ]\Ielicent. " It appears to me now
that Hurst has been wearing a mask, and is by
no means the harmless old student we believed him
" I should think not," cried Toby, intensely angr^/
that the old man should dare to think of Sylvia, for
Miles had repeated Hurst's confession. " How dare
an old buffer like that think Sylvia would look at
him ? "
" Now that his brother is out of the way, he may
think that he has a chance."
" Then he hasn't ; and " — struck by a sudden
thought he stared at his friend, horrified — " I say.
Miles, you surely don't think that Ralph has put
the Squire out of the way so as to make love to
Sylvia ? "
" Oh, no, no ; I don't think he is so bad as that,"
said Darch hastily. " But he lias been shut up for
years with his books, and now that his passions are
aroused by Sylvia's beauty he v/ants to go out and
enjoy himself. His money is limited, and he v/ants
all he can get to marry Sylvia, so — well, I'm not at
all easy in my mind regarding his treatment of
i6o THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Has he behaved badly to her ? "
" Not so far. But the looks he cast on her were
" You're runnmg your head against a stone wall,
my son," said the doctor roughly. " Hurst may
be inclined to play the fool in his old age, but I
don't think he'd harm Melicent. He's too fond
" His looks didn't show that. Anyhow, I intend
to keep my eye on him."
" Do so ; but it's all moonshine. There's nothing
wrong with the old buffer save his cheek in running
" That's bad enough," said Miles, thinking that
perhaps, after all, his friend was right and that he
was making something out of nothing ; " and he'll
get the mother on his side."
" Not unless he can show a good banking
" Hum ! " said Miles, getting alarmed again ;
" that's what I'm afraid of. However, he's treating
Melicent all right just now, so perhaps I am talking
" I am sure you are," said the doctor emphatically,
then, as a knock came to the door, he jumped up
from his chair, " that's Uncle George."
Uncle George, introduced by the small office boy,
proved to be a cheerful, white-haired ancient, very
shabbily dressed. No one would have taken him
to be worth sixpence, yet Toby assured his friend
in a whisper that this poverty-struck looking relative
could sign his name to a cheque for many thousands.
Uncle George, who seemed to be decidedly eccentric,
stared long and hard at Darch, then offered him his
" You'll do," he said in a thin, piping voice.
" You look sensible, and likely enough will be a good
TOBY'S UNCLE. i6i
friend to Horace here. I don't want my money to
go to a spendthrift, Mr. Darch, and a man is known
by his friends."
" Toby isn't a spendthrift, neither am I, Mr.
" Toby ! Oh, you mean Horace. Well, I'm glad
to hear it. I've worked hard for my money, and
wish to leave it to a safe person. Horace's father,
my brother, is too speculative for my taste, and if
I left it to him he'd soon make ducks and drakes
" I never speculate," said Toby virtuously.
"I'll put a clause in my will that you'll lose
my money if you do," said the ancient in his
piping voice, which was firm enough for all its
thinness. " Now about this marriage, IMr. Darch.
I've heard Horace's story, but I want to hear
" It's the same as Toby's," replied the barrister.
" Never mind ; I want to hear your version."
" Miss Gibson is a charming and beautiful young
lady, and is the dearest friend of the girl I am going
" But is she sensible ? "
" Very ; and what is more, she is self-denying.
To save her mother from ruin she was prepared to
marry an old man who "
" Yes ! Yes ! I heard all about the murder.
Horrid ! " Uncle George made a grimace. " I don't
care for such things, which, after all, aren't my
business. I want to get Horace a good wife, who
won't squander my money."
" Miss Gibson won't," Darch assured him. " She's
as sensible as Toby, and that is saying a good deal,
for he's a Socrates for wisdom."
" You make me blush," murmured Toby with
i62 [THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Well, well, that's good hearing, Mr. Darch. But
the mother " ^
" She wants her daughter to marry money. That s
" Not with Toby, as you call Horace. When I die
he'll have five thousand a year, and while I live he'll
have two thousand when he marries. I made the
money in the Norway trade, and it's honestly come
by. But this mother need not know anything about
the money. I told Horace not to tell her."
" And that's the difficulty," said Smith dismally.
" Lady Gibson will never let Sylvia marry me
thinking that I am poor, which I am."
" Will Sylvia marry you if you are poor ? "
" Yes, Uncle George, to-morrow," said Toby
" Good ; she's a sensible girl," the ancient chuckled.
" We'll have a little plot, Horace, to make sure that
she is sensible. Don't tell her that I am rich. I'm
sure I don't look it," he added, glancing down at his
shabby clothing. " But introduce her to me, and
let her think that I am a poor relative. Upon the
way she treats me will depend my consent to the
" But Lady Gibson ? "
" She shan't know anything. If the girl marries
you the mother will believe that she — the mother,
I mean — is ruined. Then we can tell her the truth,
after making sure that the girl really loves you."
" It will have to be a runaway match, then," said
" And why not ? " demanded the unprincipled old
man. " You've got no romance about you, boy. But
not a word of the money to the mother or to the
daughter, remember. Let me manage things in my
own way. Now then, how can I meet the girl and
TOBY'S UNCLE. 163
" Come with Toby here the day after to-morrow
at two o'clock, Mr. Smith. Miss Hurst, to whom
I am engaged, and Miss Gibson are coming to
"Good ! Ah, you're a sensible chap ! I'm glad
Horace has such a friend. And now we'll go,
Mr. Darch. I've tickets for a music-hall. They're
paid for and must be used. It doesn't do to
Toby winked at Darch and strode after his eccen-
tric relative, who trotted away chuckling at the
little plot he had made. Miles was glad to think
that things were going smoothly with Toby, and
chuckled to himself to think how enraged Lady
Gibson would be on hearing of a runaway marriage
and how amazed when the truth came to light. He
laughed aloud at the idea, and Toby's peculiar
wooing, superintended by the queer old man,
drove all thoughts of Ralph's possible wickedness
out of his head. This was a good thing, for the
idea of the man being evil was becoming an obses-
sion. Yet, on the face of it. Miles had no reason
to believe Ralph other than what he appeared to
be, and what he always was, during his brother's
With the day came the hour, and with the hour
came two beautifully-dressed damsels to the some-
what dingy chambers of the barrister. Uncle George
and the obedient Toby had already arrived, and
were waiting impatiently for the ad\ent of beauty.
Sylvia, warned beforehand that the uncle was a most
eccentric person, as poor as a church-mouse and as
obstinate as a mule, was somewhat nervous. She
loved Toby so much that she was anxious to stand
well with his relatives, however poor and disagree-
able they were. But, to her surprise, she found
Uncle George anything but disagreeable, although
i64 THE BLACK IMAGE.
she firmly believed, from what Toby had told her
and from the look of his clothes, that he had no
money. The old merchant was most kind and
courtly in every way, so that both the girls took
quite a fancy to him. He was full of humour, and had
quite the manner of the old school of politeness, in
spite of his plebeian name. By the time they reached
the restaurant and were seated at a retiring table,
in a snug corner, Sylvia and Melicent were getting
on capitally with the old gentleman. But it was
chiefly to Miss Gibson that he paid attention, which,
Melicent thought, was natural enough under the
circumstances. It was a merry luncheon party, for
the old gentleman made many jokes and kept
every one laughing. At times Melicent felt that
she was acting wrongly in attending such a party
and in being amused, seeing that her father had
been dead for such a short time ; but she knew
that a mournful seclusion would only make her
brood and worry herself into an illness, therefore
stilled her conscience and enjoyed herself. Also
she was reassured by Darch's glances and the
pressure of his hand — under the table. He was
delighted to see that she Vv^as acting reasonably.
All the same Melicent was very quiet during the
meal, which, after all, was given for the benefit
of Sylvia and Toby, so that their course of love
might run smoothly.
" Fond of money ? " asked Uncle George, pounc-
ing on Sylvia, for he was always on the watch for
" I am fond of what money can buy," she replied.
" A sensible answer, a very sensible answer,"
chuckled the ancient ; " and I suppose you want to
get all that money can buy ? "
" I have got what money can't buy," said Sylvia,
with a glance at Toby, " and that is love."
TOBY'S UNCLE. 165
" My nephew. But he's poor, you know. A
poor struggling doctor."
" I can struggle with him."
" And you would ? " he looked at her keenly.
" Yes ; of course there are difficulties." Sylvia
" Is Constantine Tahinos one of the difficulties ? "
As this was the name of the Greek merchant
whom Lady Gibson was now stalking, Sylvia
looked surprised, and blushed. " Do you know
him ? "
" Oh, yes ! he's a friend of mine. I understood
him to say that he admired a certain Miss Gibson
greatly. That is why I was so anxious to meet you.
Of course Mr. Tahinos is very rich."
Sylvia looked haughty. " Wliat is that to me ? "
" Uncle," broke in Tob57' anxiousl3^
" Let me be, boy. I want to know if Miss Gibson
— well, well, we'll say no more about it. Only I am
too poor to afford a very handsome wedding present
" Is he going to be married ? " asked Darch,
sipping his coffee.
" Miss Gibson can answer that."
" Miss Gibson can't," said Sylvia, with a height-
ened colour. " Why not talk of my marriage to
Toby, Mr. Smith. It is a much more agreeable
" You really think so ; you really think so ? "
" Yes ! " Sylvia was annoyed by the old man's
persistence, yet could not help smiling at the
humorous twinkle in his eye.
With the monosyllable Uncle George seemed to
be contented, and changed the subject with great
tact. For the rest of the time everything went
very well, and then the two girls took their depar-
ture, as they had some shopping to do. Uncle
i66 THE BLACK IMAGE.
George saw them depart, then seized his nephew's
" Marry her, my boy ; marry her. She's a sensible
girl. Marry her."
All this was very agreeable and very wisely settled,
for Sylvia did seem inclined to refuse further sacri-
fice for her mother's selfish sake and accept the poor
doctor whom she truly loved. And Uncle George,
who had quite fallen in love with her, chuckled, with
many rubbings of his hands, when he thought of the
great surprise that was in store for her, and for her
mother also, little as that mother deserved it. But
here Fate stepped in to o^'erturn all these agreeable
The two girls made their purchases and then re-
turned to the Kensington fiat to find that Mr. Hurst
had come and gone. They were glad of this, as
neither one of them wished to see him particularly,
pleasant as he was. Sylvia wished to talk about
Toby and his delightfully eccentric uncle to Melicent,
although she wondered how she could manage to do
this with her mother at her elbow. Lady Gibson,
however, had retired to her room, and instead of
coming out to attend to her guest, sent for her
daughter. For quite an hour the two were together
and Melicent was growing very tired of her own
society, when Sylvia returned.
But how changed she was. Toby's wooing had
flushed her face and had made her eyes as bright as
stars, while she laughed and talked gaily. Now, in
place of her happy companion, Melicent saw the
Sylvia of the old days, white and silent, statuesque
and scornful. Putting her questions aside. Miss
Gibson went to the escritoire and wrote a short letter.
This she directed and stamped, then summoned the
maidservant to take it to the post. Afterwards
she turned to her astonished friend.
TOBY'S UNCLE. 167
" We must have dinner alone, " she said. " Mother
is unwell and has gone to bed. You don't mind,
do you ? "
" I'm glad. We can talk about Toby undisturbed."
" I shall never talk of Toby again. I shall never
" Sylvia ! " Melicent stared with her mouth open.
" I have dismissed Toby in that letter and I am to
marry your Uncle Ralph."
WHILE absent in London attending to the
demands of his wealthy relative, Toby
had left a locum tenens behind to look
after his Grenacer practice. And as Uncle George
agreed to pay the substitute, the young doctor was
in no hurry to return. The more so as he had
chances of seeing Sylvia in town which were wanting
in the country. Therefore Miles was left entirely
to his own company, and this especially since Melicent
went to stay v/ith Lady Gibson. During this isolation
he worked hard at his law-books and briefs, going to
the metropolis and returning with due regularity.
Sometimes he went to Kensington to see the girl,
and noticed that she looked worried and pale. The
reason of this she refused to tell him.
The tiTith was that after telling Melicent of her
intention to throw over Smith and marry Ralph,
Sylvia insisted that her friend should say nothing to
Miles of her determination. The secret preyed on
Melicent 's mind, as she could not understand the
reason of this sudden change when everything had
seemed to be going in Toby's favour at the luncheon.
Darch also noted that Sylvia had returned to her
old silent attitude, but did not connect that with
Melicent 's sick looks. He thought that Lady Gibson
was worrying both the girls, and therefore urged
MeHcent to return to Grenacer. This the girl was
unwilling to do. Since S34via had announced her
intention to marry Ralph, his niece began to doubt
her uncle. No man, as she thought, and said, could
be really good if he forced Sylvia into a marriage
against her wishes. This, as it plainly appeared,
was what Ralph was doing, with the countenance of
Lady Gibson. Sylvia made no explanation.
Miles was puzzled to account for these things, but
his bewilderment was dispersed one morning by the
unexpected appearance of Toby. For the last few
daj's the young man had been in Paris, since his
uncle had the whim to go there immediately after
the luncheon. It was part of his plan, he said, to see
if Sjdvia would remain true to his nephew while they
were parted. As he had seen Sylvia and knew how
deeply she was attached to Toby, this experiment
seemed to be wholly unnecessary, but Uncle George
was eccentric, and his eccentricity had to be
humoured. Toby hated to leave London when
things were going so well with him and S34via, but
he was forced to obey his rich relation, who had
everything to do with the final adjustment of things.
In a few days Toby returned, and at his hotel where
he stayed with Uncle George, found the letter which
Sylvia had written. The reading of it upset him
altogether, and he rushed away immediately to see
his friend and to consult him as to the meaning of
this thunderbolt from the blue.
Miles was surprised when Toby entered like a
whirlwind and, without a word, placed the letter
before him. He inquired anxiously what was the
matter, but the doctor merely pointed to the letter
in silence, then flung himself into a chair to cover
his face with his hands. Considerably puzzled by
all this pantomime Miles sought the solution in
170 THE BLACK IMAGE.
the epistle, and found it there with a vengeance.
Sylvia wrote saying that, by the wish of her mother,
she intended to receive the addresses of Ralph Hurst,
and that, although she loved Toby, and would always
love him, there was no help for it but to throw him
over in Hurst's favour. Here the letter ended, but
a postscript saying that the change of mind was not
due to the money question, showed how anxious the
writer was to stand well with the man she was — on
the face of it — treating so badly. Miles read this
letter once ; he read it twice ; he read it three times,
and then sat back in his chair to wonder what it all
meant. He asked this question of Toby, who
" That is what I have come to ask you," said
Toby wretchedly. " I think Sylvia must be out
of her mind to blow hot and cold in this way. At
that luncheon you gave she told me positively that
she did not intend to sacrifice herself any more over
the money question with regard to her mother. Yet
she now — she now " — ^the worried young man choked
and pointed to the letter, "she now writes like
that," he finished with a gasp.
" It's not the money question this time," com-
mented Miles, knitting his brows and reflecting ;
" the postscript shows that."
" But what other reason can there be ? We know
that all along Lady Gibson has wanted Sylvia to
marry a rich man for her to sponge on. Failing the
Squire, who is dead, Lady Gibson wants Hurst as
" Hurst is not rich."
" She doesn't know that. You told me yourself
that Hurst asked Melicent not to say anything about
the will and his private income."
" I did," assented Miles, nodding. " All the
same, Lady Gibson must know that Melicent in-
herits the Squire's property, and cannot think that
Hurst has benefited sufficiently largely by the will
to make him a good match for her daughter. That
is, of course, seeing what large ideas of money Lady
Gibson has. Then there is this Greek merchant,
Constantine Tahinos, of whom your uncle spoke.
He is a millionaire, as I have been making inquiries,
and it seems that he admires Sylvia excessively.
Lady Gibson would certainly not fish for a sprat
when she could fish for a whale, and she would prefer
Tahinos to Hurst a thousand times if it were a mere
question of money."
Toby nodded and leaned forward to rest his
elbows on his knees and his chin in the cup of his
hands. " I suppose that's true. But what other
reason can there be ?"
" You must ask Hurst that," interrupted Miles,
quietly but meaningh'.
" Hurst ! " Toby sat up and stared.
" Yes ! I told you that I mistrusted the man.
The postscript to this letter makes me mistrust him
more than ever. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing."
" But I don't see "
" I am surprised at that," said Darch, interrupting
him again. " Sylvia says plainly in the postscript
that her change of mind is not due to the
money question. Therefore, it must be due to some-
" True. Well ? "
" Well, we know that Sylvia loves you, and that
only for the sake of her mother would she jilt you
in favour of Ralph. He, if you remember, was to
pay her a visit while the girls were at lunch with us.
Depend upon it, he did so, and what he said to Lady
Gibson was told to Sylvia when she returned home.
Hence this letter."
" Bui what could Hurst have said to Lady Gibson
172 THE BLACK IMAGE.
to make her agree to Sylvia's marriage with him
rather than with Tahinos ? "
"Ah, that's what we've got to find out ! In my
opinion it is a case of sheer blackmail."
" Blackmail ? "
" Toby, do pull yourself together and don't go on
repeating m}'' words like a cuckoo. Of course it's
blackmail. Hurst knows something about Lady
Gibson which has forced her to consent to this rotten
" I see." Smith rose and began to pace the room
excitedly. " Shall I go to Lady Gibson or to Sylvia
and ask what it is ? "
" They would both refuse to receive you. The
mother because she dare not say what means Hurst
used to coerce her, and the daughter because she has
to respect her mother's secret, for which she is paying
" What's to be done ? "
" Nothing more than I am already doing. Hurst
must be watched, and I am watching him on JMeli-
cent's behalf. You must join with me in watching
him for Sylvia's sake."
" You really think that he is a blackguard ? "
" I was inclined to think so before, when he
dropped the mask and showed his real face. I am
still more inclined to believe so now, when I guess
that he has used threats to compel Lady Gibson to
agree to the marriage. If it were the old question
of money it wouldn't matter. But it isn't that."
" No, it isn't that," said Smith mechanically.
" Do you think that I could induce Sylvia to elope
with me ? "
" Not while her mother is in Hurst's power. What
the secret is which gives this man such a hold over
Lady Gibson I don't know. But I am confident
that there is a secret, and a pretty dangerous one,
'" DOUBTS. 173
else Lady Gibson would not have agreed to the
marriage so readily when there was a chance of trap-
ping Tahinos. We must learn that secret and save
Lady Gibson. Then, out of gratitude, money or no
money, she will agree to your becoming the husband
of her daughter."
" But how are we to learn the secret ? "
" I can't say at present. But you must return
to Grenacer and help me to watch Hurst. In some
way or another he may give himself awa}^ I only
hope that Lady Gibson will keep Melicent with her,
for I am afraid there is danger in that dear girl going
back to the Hall."
" Why ? "
" How stupid you are, Toby," said Darch im-
patiently. " Melicent has the property now, but if
anything happens to her Ralph gets it. And Ralph
wants it so as to be rich when he marries Sylvia,
which he certainly will do unless you and I can clip
" We don't know anything about his claws."
" Agreed ; they are sheathed in velvet just now.
But he has shown them to Lady Gibson, and if we
watch he may show them to us. Then we sliall know
what to do. Understand ? "
"Oh, yes ! and I am of 5^our opinion. Miles. Yet
we have nothing substantial to urge against Hurst.
There is no evidence "
" We must find evidence. I tell you, Tob3% I
don't feel easy in my mind over Melicent 's position
with that man. I only hope she'll stay where she
But the hope was vain, and Darcli learned that it
was very speedily. He went on talking to Toby
and suggesting schemes to counter-plot Ralph when
Melicent made her appearance. It was so sudden
and so pat to the moment as to be quite dramatic,
174 THE BLACK IMAGE.
and both the young men could not conceal their
astonishment. Miles placed a chair for the girl,
who looked weary and sick. Toby, as a medical
man, told her so the moment she sat down. Meli-
"I'm worried about something," she explained.
" I know," said Darch, leaning against the table ;
" and you have three times refused to tell me what
that something is."
" I can't." Melicent turned away her face.
" Sylvia doesn't want you to tell, I suppose ? "
" Sylvia ! " the girl stared and grew crimson.
" Wliat has she to do with it ? "
" Everything, as Toby and I know from this
letter." Miles held it up.
" Oh ! Is that the letter S3dvia wrote when we
returned home after the lunch ? "
" Yes ; and after she saw her mother."
" Well, she did see her mother before she wrote
the letter. If that is the letter."
" It is. Toby has been to Paris with his uncle, and
only got the letter to-day when he returned. I quite
understand why you are worried, IMelicent, and also
why you refuse to tell me the cause of the worry.
Sylvia is going to marry your uncle, and asked you
to say nothing about it to me."
" Yes ! I suppose I can admit that now you know
so much. Miles."
" You have not broken any confidence, dear, if
that's what you mean. But be more explicit for
Toby's sake. Do 5'ou know why he has been cast
aside ? "
" No," said Melicent earnestly ; " really I don't.
Sylvia said, after she posted that letter, that she was
going to marry Uncle Ralph, but she refused to say
why. I suggested that it was because Lady Gibson
thought m}' uncle was rich, and if that had been
the reason I was going to break my promise to Uncle
Ralph and explain about the will since I think it's a
shame that Sylvia should be forced to marry him
when she loves Toby, But S3'Ivia says it is not
a question of money."
" She repeats that in the postscript to this letter,"
remarked Darch, nodding. " I suppose you don't
know why Lad\^ Gibson agrees to this marriage ? "
" No ; she says nothing and Sylvia says nothing.
I'm very miserable, Miles, and I'm not enjoying
myself a little bit, I'm sure," sobbed Melicent,
taking out her handkerchief. " I didn't mind in the
least when Lady Gibson told me this morning that
I could go home."
" Oh," Miles glanced at Smith, " she told you
that ? "
" Yes; she says she is ill and can't entertain me
any longer. And she does look ill," asseverated the
girl tearfully, " staying in bed ever since Uncle
Ralph came to see her. I'm sure dull as the Hall is,
I don't mind going back in the least, though I really
don't like Uncle Ralph as I used to like him. He's
changed somehow since father died."
" And you don't like him ? "
" No." Melicent dried her eyes and twisted her
handkerchief into a damp ball with a worried look.
" I dare say it's very silly, Miles, but I'm afraid."
" Of your uncle ? "
" Yes ; but don't go on examining me in this horrid
manner. I can't bear it."
" I won't, then," said Miks soothingly, for he saw
that the girl was overwrought, " only tell me if you
came this morning to ask me to take you back to the
Hall ? "
" Yes, I did. To-morrow I am returning by the
midday train. I know it's taking you away from
your work, Miles, but I feel that I can't return alone."
176 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Melicent," said the young man abruptly," don't
be silly. Late events have got on your nerves.
Your uncle is all right," Miles swallowed something
when uttering this lie. " He loves you just the
same, and all the difference in him since your father
died is that he dresses in a smarter fashion."
" No ; he is different all through, and I'm afraid
of him," insisted Melicent positively. " It's that
statue, I'm sure. The hand is closed yet, and there
is more trouble to come."
" Oh, nonsense," said the doctor bluntly, for he
saw that his friend was trying to reassure the girl,
" you are run down. When you come back to
Grenacer I'll give you a tonic."
" You're sure that there is nothing to be afraid
of ? " asked Melicent in a timid tone wholly different
to her usual speech.
" No ! " said both young men simultaneously,
although they were as afraid for the girl as she was
afraid for herself.
" Then I shan't worry any more," said Miss Hurst
cheerfully, rising to go, " and I'll expect you at
Liverpool Street Station to-morrow, Miles, at a
quarter to twelve."
" I'll be there," said Darch, escorting her to the
door ; and he kissed her in the passage, while Toby
discreetly remained behind so that this loving
farewell might not have a spectator.
Miles returned with a gloomy brow. " You see
Melicent mistrusts Ralph also, Toby," he remarked,
frowning. " I wish she wasn't going back."
" Well, you can keep an eye on her and so can I,"
said the doctor in a comforting tone ; " and ask Mrs.
Frint to look after her."
" Yes ; a good suggestion. Whatever Hurst may
be, Mrs. Frint is a good old soul, and nursed Melicent
And as she's in the house, she can guard Melicent
from any devil-tricks Hurst may wish to play on
" You think, then, that he does intend to play
tricks ? "
" I am quite sure that Hurst intends to get the
property if he can."
" You have no reason for saying that ; no real
reason, I mean."
" Quite so. All the same, I do say it," and there
was silence for a few moments, which was ultimately
broken by Toby.
" I say," observed the doctor, who had been re-
flecting, " suppose we tell the whole of this story to
Uncle George. He's a shrewd old chap, and has
great experience of the shady side of life, with which
Hurst seems to be associated. And Lady Gibson,
too, if she has some secret," added Toby.
Miles approved of the idea immediately. " It's
worth trying," he said heartily. " I like your uncle,
Toby, and think he is very sensible and clever."
" Very well, then, come to dinner this evening. I
can give you a bed at the hotel. At least Uncle
George can, as he's paying for everything."
Darch accepted, as he thought that, for the time
being he could do more good in town than at Gren-
acer. He wished to be within call of Melicent in
case she wanted him unexpectedly, and things just
now were so queer that it was quite on the cards that
she might want him. So that evening, after giving
his small boy half a sovereign to wait until ten
o'clock in the office and receive any message that
might possibly come from Melicent, Darch went to
dine at the Guelph Hotel. Uncle George was glad
to see him and, after giving him an excellent dinner,
took him and his nephew to a snug corner of tlie
smoking-room. Over pipes and cigarettes and coffee
he demanded an account of everything since Toby
178 THE BLACK IMAGE.
had told him that he was to be consulted. The old
man listened in silence, and nodded when the story
was concluded. He evidently thought that there
was something in Darch's doubts.
" There's nothing appears on the surface to make
3'ou doubt him, save this coercion of Lady Gibson,"
ipiped the ancient, thoughtfully, " but that alone
is enough to show that the man is not the clean
potato. If he is using a secret in the woman's past
life to force her to obey him, he's a blackguard, if
ever there was one, and is not likely to stop at
"Do you think he'll hurt Melicent ? " asked Miles
" As she comes into her property in two months,
he might," admitted Uncle George cautiously ;
" but we'll discuss that way later. First let us talk
about the secret. Is it possible that Hurst learned
it from this woman, who murdered the Squire ? "
" What makes you think that, uncle ? " asked
Toby in amazement, for he could see no reason for
" Mam'zel Clarice, according to Hurst, v/as
connected with the French Secret Service, Horace.
It's the word secret which makes me connect the
woman with Lady Gibson. Mam'zel Clarice may
have learned something about Lady Gibson in Paris,
which had to do with this secret of her past life."
" But if Mam'zel knew anything detrimental to
Lady Gibson," argued Darch, " I am sure she would
have told the Squire."
" Perhaps she did on the night that she killed
him. But as the Squire was going to marry the
daughter and not the mother, perhaps the secret,
whatever it was, didn't bother him. Of course,"
added the ancient cautiously, " it's only an idea of
mine. But if Hurst, as you say, lived so constantly
in Grenacer and never \vent out into the world,
I don't see what change he wc^ld have of learmng
" He didn't cut himself off entirely from the
world," said Sm'th quickl}^ " I know that he used
to go to London once a month and sometimes twice,
for I met him occasionally in the train. Your idea is
rather far-fetched, uncle."
"It is; it is, Horace," admitted Uncle George
readily. " All the same, this woman may have
known something about Lady Gibson which she
found out in Paris, and may have told Hurst about
it. What do you think, Mr. Darch ? "
" It's a wild idea," said the lawyer thoughtfully.
" Still, there may be something in it. But as we
can't find Mam'zel Clarice, I don't see how we
are to learn anything about the secret — even if she
" Well, I only suggest the idea, Mr. Darch. I
may be wrong and I may be right, for my experience
of life has taught me never to be certain of anything.
All the same, Mam'zel Clarice is a dangerous woman,
and Hurst — from your showing — is a dangerous
man. Birds of a feather, you know "
" But you don't think that Hurst has anything
to do with the murder," exclaimed Darch hastily
" He was in London at the time."
" I dare say. No, I don't suggest that. But^if
you can learn anything about Mam'zel Clarice," I
fancy you'll learn something about Hurst also."
"I'll see what I can do," said the lawyer, and
went to bed to think over matters, which were more
complicated than ever.
THE SHADOW OF EVIL.
D ARCH'S visit to Toby's uncle did not help him
very much to get a grasp of things as they were.
The idea that Mam'zel Clarice, through her con-
nection with the French police, knew Lady Gibson's
secret seemed, on the face of it, to be improbable.
The woman was frivolous, scheming, fond of money,
and anxious to make capital out of her daughter's
beauty. But Darch saw no reason to think that
she was bad, or that she was likely to have a secret
known to the English or Continental police. That
there was a secret he was sure, since she consented
to Sylvia's engagement to Hurst, but that it was
a criminal one he doubted. Doubted also if Mam'zel
Clarice knew it. How Hurst had learned the truth,
seeing that for many years he had lived so secluded
a life, it was hard to say. But, at all events. Miles
felt confident that Mam'zel had not enlightened
him. All the same, he wished he could find the
woman and question her. But she had disappeared
and was nowhere to be found.
Melicent looked better when Miles met her at the
railway station, but a strange objection to returning
home had taken hold of her. Certainly she was
going back to Grenacer, for she could allege no reason
why she should remain away, and moreover had no
THE SHADOW OF EVIL. iSi
other home to go to. She was strivmg to overcome
the fear of her uncle, which had sprung into being
since his engagement to Sylvia. For now Sylvia
had the engagement ring on her finger and had inter-
viewed her elderly lover. Miles saw by the haunting
look in the girl's eyes that she was afraid, and
strove to reassure her by making light of her fears.
" You are frightened of shadows," he said jokingly.
" Shadows can be very terrible," she replied
" Not when they are faced and their shadowy-
qualities proved, my dear. Do you wish to know
what I think of your uncle ? "
" Yes," said Melicent, with a tremor which she
could not suppress.
" Well, I think he is a man with a fondness for
luxury and enjoyment which he had to suppress for
want of money. Also — and this is a point in his
favour — he has remained in seclusion, more or less,
at Grenacer in order to look after your father, who
was too debilitated a man to manage things. Now
that his task is completed, and the money from the
will added to his own small income gives him the
means of indulging in his likings, I think he is anxious
to come out into the world. He may be fond of
pleasure, iNIelicent, and I think he is, but that does
not mean he is bad or dangerous."
" Yet he forced Lady Gibson to "
"Ah! that is Lady Gibson's story."
" It is the story she told Sylvia," interrupted the
girl dryly, " and it must be a terrible one to make
Sylvia give up Toby for Uncle Ralph."
" She gave him up for your father."
" I know. But she told her mother, in my presence,
that she would not sacrifice herself any longer now
that father is dead. Lady Gibson wanted her to
marry that Greek merchant, and Sylvia refused,
i82 THE BLACK IMAGE.
saying she intended marrying Toby. At tlie lunch
she was quite bent upon doing so. Yet, after the
interview with her mother, she wrote that letter.
No, Miles. There is sometliing horrible about the
matter and Uncle Ralph knows all about it."
" But it doesn't affect you, Meiicent ? "
" Not directly ; but indirectly it does. For if
Uncle Ralph is holding a whip over Lady Gibson's
head, he may use another whip to me."
" Well, I am near you, Meiicent, and if anything
happens to make you feel afraid, you have only to
send Jum for me. Besides, I shall ask Mrs. Frint to
watch over you."
" But she is devoted to Uncle Ralph."
" To you also, since she nursed you."
" Well, I think she is," admitted the girl after a
pause. " I'm sure she doesn't wish to see me hurt."
" Meiicent ! Meiicent ! There is no chance of
your being hurt,"
" I don't trust Uncle Ralph," said the girl sullenly.
From this belief Miles could not move her, and he
shared it , himself, although he made light of the
matter to reassure her. All he could do was to
tell her that he was at her beck and call whenever
she chose to summon him, and this assurance seemed
to make the girl feel safer. When they arrived at
Serbery station and stepped into the motor-car
which Hurst had sent, the soothing aspect of the
country and the bright sunshine cheered Meiicent
greatly. She began to think tliat she had exaggerated
things and was making a bugbear of her uncle, as she
had made one of Hecate. By the time they arrived
at the Hall, she was quite her old merry, cheerful
self, although she shrank back and shivered when
Hurst took her in his arms.
" Welcome back, my dear child," he said loudly.
" I have missed you a great deal. Miles, you must
THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 183
let her have more of my company than of your
own, as I shall lose her to you m the long run."
" Well, I can't come over to-night," said Darch,
with a smile, " as I am returning to town, and
having much work to do, will not arrive home until
late. I can come over to-morrow night, I hope,
" Surely, surely ! " said Ralph, clapping him
cheerily on the back. " I am always glad to see
3'ou and you mustn't mind my jokes."
Reassured by the friendly attitude of Ralph
towards her lover, and the freedom of intercourse
permitted between them, Melicent brightened still
more and kissed Miles with a laugh when he went
awa}'. Hurst offered the young man the motor-car
to take him back to Serbery, but Miles preferred
to walk, and said so. Then he turned to go, as
Mrs. Frint came into the hall to embrace and kiss her
nursling. But at the bottom of the steps, and before
the footman could close the door, he turned back.
As he thouglit, Ralph and his niece had gone into
the library, while Mrs. Frint was mo\'ing towards
the passage leading directly into the back part of
the house. Miles called her, and she came forward
with a look of apprehension which rather puzzled him.
" Mrs. Frint, my cook wants 3^ou to give her that
recipe for a curry you promised her," he said aloud,
for the benefit of the solemn footman ; then, sinking
his voice, added hastil}^ " I want to see you
" You shall have the recipe to-night, Mr. Darch,"
responded Mrs. Frint after a start. Then in turn
she sank her voice. " I'll meet you at the bottom
of the avenue in ten niimites."
" Thank you ; thank you," said Darch, acknow-
ledging, so far as the footman understood, the
promise of the recipe, and then really tnok hi^
i84 THE BLACK IMAGE.
leave, while Mrs. Print hurried to her room, and the
servant closed the door.
On the way down the avenue Miles wondered at
her ready agreement to meet him, and the quick
manner in which she had adopted his plan of not
letting the footman overhear. It seemed to him as
though she was prepared to be asked to meet him
privately, even though the start she made hinted
that the request was unexpected. Darch was fairly
puzzled by her demeanour, just as he was fairly
shocked by her wan looks. She was thin, wrinkled
and old, quite a different woman to the stout, cheerful
old dame whom he had known. The absence of her
bright dress and many ribbons seemed to change
her still more, and the black mourning garb accentu-
ated her miserable looks. She appeared to be
burdened with some secret, and as like as not might
break down straight away. Darch could not under-
stand the reason for this woeful change.
At the big gates he waited patiently for the
housekeeper, and soon saw her hurrying down, with
every now and then a backward glance. She seemed
to be afraid lest she should be followed, and when she
reached the young man, seized his hands and drew
liim into the wood. More than ever astonished by
this behaviour, Miles submitted to be dragged along
a narrow path and into a small glade. Here Mrs.
Print released his hand and dropped on to a fallen
tree-trunk with a sigh of relief. She wiped her hot
face with her handkerchief as she sighed, and spoke
" Here we are, safe for the time being."
" What do you mean ? " asked Darch, more and
more startled, as much by the restlessness of her
manner as the mystery of her words.
" Why did you ask me to meet you ? " sh^
demanded, not answering his question.
THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 185
" \Miy did you respond to my request so readily ? "
he said dr3'ly.
" Because I wanted to sec you, Mr. Darch. If
you had not come to me, I should have come to you."
She paused and rocked herself to and fro, breathing
deeply and, as it seemed, with an effort. " Why
do you wish to see me ? " she asked again, and
looking up inquiringly.
" I wish you to look after Melicent."
" Why sliould I look after her more now than I
have ever done ?
" Because she is now an orphan, and orphans,
Mrs. Print, need to be guarded."
Mrs. Print rose and clutched his arm. " \\Tiat do
you know ? How do you know ? "
" Know what ? " Miles stared at her.
Mrs. Print released his arm and wiped her face
again. " It's quite hot here, isn't it ? " she said
mechanical!}'. " Don't mind me, Mr. Darch. The
Squire's death has been a shock to me, for I was
much attached to him. I'll look after Miss Melicent,
" Thank yon. And now I shall ask you the ques-
tion you asked me. Why did you wish to see me ? "
" I want to know when you are going to marry
Miss Melicent ? "
" In a year."
Mrs. Print bent forward and whispered in his
ear. Darch could feel her hot, hurried breath on
" Marry her at once," said the housekeeper.
" Because it would be better. She is all alone,
poor lamb, and wants some one to love and cherish
" She has her uncle," said Miles, with intentional
i86 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Yes," said Mrs. Print, drawing back ; " she has
her uncle ! "
Darch grew annoyed. She was plainly fencing,
wanting to tell something, yet refraining, for some
reason, from doing so. " Be frank with me," he
implored in earnest tones. " Remember that I love
Melicent with all my heart, and that if anything
should happen to her, I should never cease to
" What could happen to her ? " asked the house-
" Ah, that is what I wish you to tell me."
" If you think that I am going to tell 3'ou anything
criminal, you are mistaken," said Mrs. Frint roughly.
" All I wished to see 370U about was to advise you to
marry Miss Melicent as soon as possible."
" But her year of mourning "
" Oh, bother the year of mourning," said the
woman vigorously. " It's this way, Mr. Darch, I'll
be open with you, if you will promise me to keep
what I say to yourself."
" Certainl}^ if what you say isn't dangerous to
" Only to her property, not to her body. No,"
she spoke as if to herself, " I am quite sure she is safe
from bodily harm."
" Why should you doubt it ? "
" There are things and things, Mr. Darch. But
really, I don't doubt it. All I say is that Mr. Ralph
has always been a trial."
" Ah, Mr. Ralph ! " again Miles spoke meaningly.
" What do you know about him, may I ask ? "
the woman fired up immediately.
" Nothing, on the face of it, but what is good.
Only he seems to have blossomed out into a man of
the world since his brother's death."
" He doesn't mean any harm by that," explained
THE SHADOW OF EVIL. i8;
the woman feverishly. " Only you see, Mr. Darch,
he was always wild."
" Wild, Ralph Hurst wild ? "
" Yes ! yes ! in quite the usual way, I mean.
There is nothing bad about him, you know, but
he w^as always fond of pleasure : wine and cards and
pretty ladies, Mr. Darch. He ran through all his
money, and the Squire kept him here on condition
that he looked after things. When John Frint, my
husband, went to America and died there, the Squire
didn't appoint another bailiff. He suggested that
Mr. Ralph should look after the estate. And he
did very well ; he has done \-ery well all these years,
for I looked after him and the Squire looked after
him. People think that the Squire was a fool, but
he was not," said Mrs. Frint excitedly. " He was
weak and selfish and didn't trouble about things.
But he kept an eye on Mr. Ralph, as I did."
" To see that Mr. Ralph didn't make ducks and
drakes of things. He was always a spendthrift,
and would have squandered the money if the Squire
and I had not watched him. He is cleverer than we
are ; he always was. But we had common sense,
and as the Squire held the purse ^ilr. Ralph was
forced to behave himself. And he has — he has. I
assure you he is a clever man."
" And now ? "
" He is a clever man, I tell you, but his love of
pleasure runs away with him, as it has done always.
He has been in that library reading and writing and
looking after the estate for years and years, only
going up every now and then to London to enjoy
himself in a quiet way. But now he is free."
" Ah ! " Darch grasped immediately what she
" Yes," insisted Mrs. Fruit ; " he's free to do what
i88 THE BLACK IMAGE.
he likes with the money before he hands it over to
Miss Mehcent. And even then she'll only be an
infant in his hands. Marry her as soon as you can,
Mr. Darch, and look after the money, or there'll be
none left. I have been a servant in this family for
forty 3'ears, and I don't want to see the Hall sold
and the estate cut up. There's no harm in Mr.
Ralph, save that he's fond of pleasure and wastes
money. He'd kill me if he knew that I talked like
this, so don't tell him."
" No," said Miles soothingly, " I won't. And I
quite understand why you wished to see me, and
drew me to this quiet spot. But I am surprised to
hear what you say of the Squire. I always thought
that Ralph looked after him rather than he after
"It is difficult to explain " said Mrs. Frint with
a sigh. " The Squire was always weak in his body,
and never seemed to have enough energy to do any-
thing. But he was cleverer than you think, and
" Surely not when he made Ralph his daughter's
" Ah, he did that for the sake of peace, as Mr.
Ralph was so angry when any other guardian was
proposed. But the Squire thought that long before
he died i\liss JMelicent would be married to you, and
then she would not require a guardian. But you
know how the Squire died unexpectedly at the
hands of that miserable woman."
Miles nodded. "I see ! Well, I shall try and
induce Melicent to marry me at once ; but perhaps if
she refuses it won't matter much, as she takes pos-
session of her property in two months."
" I told you that she w^ould be but an infant in
Mr. Ralph's hands," said Mrs. Frint with a frown.
" Melicent has a will of her own and "
THE SHx\DOW OF EVIL. 189
■' Her will cannot stand against Mr. Ralph's will,"
interrupted the woman, " for he is as clever as Satan
himself in many ways. But don't think that he is
really bad," she went on anxiously. " It's only his
love of pleasure which I speak against."
Mrs. Frint seemed inclined at once to blame Hurst
and to praise him, and was evidently distressed at
having to speak at all. Apparently she was fond of
Ralph, whom she had known from the time they
were both children together : she a village girl and
he the young gentleman of the Hall. " Don't think
he is really bad," said Mrs. Frint again, twisting her
handkerchief, " only get Miss Melicent to marry you
as soon as possible, so that j^ou can look after the
money. Mr. Ralph isn't good, but he isn't bad.
And now that's all I have to say. Keep this con-
" I promise you that, unless it is necessary in
Melicent's interest to reveal it."
" It won't be," said Mrs. Frint vehemently.
" Didn't I tell you that she is safe from bodily harm.
It's only her money that is in danger, and I don't
want ]\Ir. Ralph to play ducks and drakes with that,
besides getting into bad company with his love of
" H'm ! " said Darch, " perhaps marriage will cure
him of his profligacy."
Mrs. Frint, who was walking away, turned sharply.
" Marriage ! "
" Yes ; don't you know that Mr. Ralph is going
to marry Miss Gibson ? "
Mrs. Frint 's face was already pale, but if possible it
became paler. " You ain't speaking truly, are you ? "
" Yes, I am. Ask Miss Melicent."
" But Miss Gibson was engaged to the Squire,"
said Mrs. Frint, in a scared voice, and trembling
igo THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Well, the Squire is dead, so Ralph thinks he has
" And has he ? "
" Not if Miss Gibson is left to her own wishes.
She loves Dr. Smith "
"I know ! I know ! "
" But her mother wishes her to marry Mr. Ralph."
" That she shall never do." Mrs, Print's face
flushed scarlet and her voice rang out like a bell.
" Never, never, never," and with a fierce look she
walked away, increasing her speed at every stride
until she was fairly running.
Darch, surprised at the way in which she took
the news, wondered if there was anj^thing between
her and the pleasure-loving Ralph to make her so
furious. All the way to Serbery he pondered over
this, and also over the advice she gave concerning
marriage with Melicent. Undoubtedly Ralph would
.squander the mone}^ if his character was as Mrs.
Frint explained ; but bad as this hearing was, Miles
felt relieved that things were no worse. Melicent
at least was safe from bodily harm, as Ralph would
not kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. And
yet, as Miles reflected in the train, if the goose was
kflled, Ralph was the heir to the golden hoard. He
tried to believe that Mrs. Frint spoke truly, that
Ralph was only profligate and not criminal. But
he could not help thinking that the man was more
dangerous than the woman would admit. She
seemed to have a weakness for the scamp, as was
shown by her indignation over his possible marriage
with Sylvia, and therefore veiled his worst qualities.
" Anyhow," thought Miles when travelling in a
taxi towards the Temple, " Mrs. Frint will look after
Melicent and will see that she comes to no harm."
After arriving at this conclusion, he set to work,
and passed the rest of the afternoon and the greater
THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 191
part of the evening in dry-as-dust study. He would
rather have been digging in his garden under the
open sky than employed in law studies ; but it was
necessary for him to make a name, and only by
hard work could he make one. And, after all, he
had the example of Jum to shame him into sticking
to his weary task. There was something of the
sybarite in Darch's nature which was difficult to
conquer. Only his love for Melicent gave him the
strength to conquer it.
It was with a sigh of relief that the young man
caught the midnight train at Liverpool Street. As
he walked along slowly to enter his carriage, another
train drew up on the other side of the platform.
Crowds of people, mostly holiday-makers who had
been to Southend, rushed out of the train and along
to the barrier. Miles watched them idly and then,
to his surprise, saw Ralph Hurst in the throng with
a light overcoat above his smart evening dress, and
carrying a bag in his hand. Ralph did not notice
him, and of this Miles was glad. But, astonished
as he was to see Hurst at this late hour coming to
London, he was still more astonished when he saw
Jum, in a tweed suit, with a rakish green hat,
darting in the wake of the big man. Jum saw
Darch, placed a warning finger on his lips and
followed the man he was spying on, with the cunning
of a Redskin on the death trail.
ALTHOUGH Darch was surprised to see Jum
in London at such a late hour, he beheved
that he guessed the reason for his being
there. The bo}' was following Ralph, to watch his
doings, and doubtless did so at the behest of Mrs.
Print. Miles bore in mind her lament for Hurst's
graceless instincts, and her dread lest he should get
into bad company. Therefore, it was probable that
she had instructed Jum to spy on him in the hope of
averting disaster, should the 'man's profligacy invite
the same. All doubts on this subject were ended by
an explanation from Jum himself. Miles went to his
chambers as usual next day, and while busy received
an unexpected visit from the page. Alert and
bright-eyed, in his smart tweed suit and remarkable
Tyrolean hat, which was aggressively green, the boy
made his appearance. Miles looked up from the
brief he was studying, and silentlv, with uplifted
eyebrows, requested an explanation. Jum gave it
immediately, in his best English.
" I know you are surprised to see me, sir," he said,
twisting his hat in his hands and meeting Darch' s
gaze honestly, " but, as you came across me at the
station the other night, I thought it best to come
" WTiy need you ? " asked the barrister cautiously,
and wondering if there was any hidden meaning in
this unsohcited visit. " I have nothing to do with
" I think Mrs. Frint would Hke me to explain,
" Have you seen her to-day ? "
" No, sir. I stayed in town last night, as you
may guess, since I followed Mr. Ralph up by the
" WTiy did you follow him ? "
" Mrs. Frint told me to do so, sir. She also said
that you were in her coniidence, so I don't mind
speaking freely to you."
" And your object ? " Darch was still cautious.
Jum was quite frank about his object. " I don't
want you to tell Mr. Ralph that I was following
" Why ? "
" Well, you see, sir, Mrs. Frint having been at the
Hall all her life is fond of Mr. Ralph, and doesn't
want him to get into trouble. Now he's got money
she thinks he will get into trouble, and told me to
keep an eye on him. So when he comes to town I
come too. But if he knew that, he would send both
Mrs. Frint and me away from the Hall. There's no
harm in my following Mr. Ralph, sir. It's for his
good, and because Mrs. Frint is so kind-hearted."
Miles thought for a moment, and found the lad's
explanation reasonable enough. " I shan't say any-
thing," he said, after a pause ; " but you and Mrs.
Frint must keep me advised of Mr. Ralph's doings.
What does he do in town, Jum ? "
" He drinks and gambles, and runs after the
girls," said Jum concisely.
" A boy of your age shouldn't know anything
about these things." Darch was embarrassed as
194 THE BLACK IMAGE.
much by the boy's innocent, steady gaze as by his
direct speech, which was deUvered quite unemo-
" You forget, sir, that I was a street-arab until
Mrs. Frint took me to the Hall," said Jum quietly.
" And what I don't know of wickedness isn't worth
knowing. What I see and hear can't hurt me, sir,
as I've learned better."
" From Mr. Ralph ? "
" He's been kind to me in teaching me to speak
properly and in educating me, sir. Wild as he is,
and many faults as he has, I'm not saying anything
against him. I want to do the best I can for him,
just as Mrs. Frint does, for I owe as much to him
as to her."
Jum spoke quite like an old and experienced man,
so that the barrister was astonished at his acumen.
Evidently he was quite honest in what he said, and
was simply doing what Mrs. Frint desired him to do,
and was bent upon repaying those who had been
kind to him by helping the one to save the other.
Darch nodded his approval when the boy finished
speaking. " Has Mr. Ralph returned to Grenacer ? "
" Yes, sir. He went down by the ten o'clock
morning train. I should have gone too, but that I
wanted to come here and ask you to say nothing.
Mr. Ralph likes to be in London at night, and
doesn't care for it in the day."
" I quite understand, Jum. By the way, I wish
you would look after Miss Melicent and see that she
comes to no harm."
" Mrs. Frint told me to do so, sir, and I'm on the
watch ; so is she."
" Then you think that Miss Melicent is in danger ? "
Darch was startled.
" It's just as well to be on the safe side, sir," said
Jum evasively, for, like the housekeeper, he appar-
ently did not wish to say anything against Hurst.
" I'll do what I can, sir. And now I'll go."
" Very good ; and if anything goes wrong, Jum,
mind you come to me here or at Grenacer to warn
" Yes, sir ! " and Jum, with a funny, stiff little
bow disappeared, leaving Miles much more easy in
his mind. With Mrs. Print and her satehite to look
after Melicent he believed that she would be quite
For the next two weeks things went on much the
same. Ralph journeyed up to town as usual, and
Jum followed him regularly. At times he went
to music-halls, frequented theatres, and haunted
drinking saloons. Jum found out that a house in
Knightsbridge he visited was a gambling hell, and
watched at the door to see him come out after hours
of card-playing. Occasionally Ralph paid a visit to
Lady Gibson's flat to see Sylvia and her mother,
wliom he taunted with their inability to escape
his tyranny. Of course Jum did not know this,
although he shrewdly suspected when he saw the
girl's face — Ralph sometimes took her to the theatre
— that such was the case. The boy was hampered
by his difficulty in following Hurst into houses, but
he learned enough of the man's doings to assiu'c the
broken-hearted Mrs. Print that Ralph was going
downhill as fast as he could. One would have
thought that this concentrated dissipation would
have ruined the man's health, but his long years of
seclusion in the library had given him much re-
served strength, and he showed no signs of breaking
up. Melicent was far from suspecting that he led
so disgraceful a life, and, as he treated her with every
consideration, and was altogether his old kindly self,
she began to laugh at her fears. No one was more
£ ) -) THE BLACK IMAGE.
agreeable than Ralph when he so chose to be, and
he pointedly endeavoured to make his niece as
happy as possible.
" I don't want you to mope/' said Ralph on
several occasions. " Your father's terrible death has
been a shock to you which is difficult to overcome.
Let me take you to town, Melicent, and escort you
to theatres and such-like."
" Thank you, Uncle Ralph, but I couldn't go to
places of amusement so soon after my father's
death," she said, gratefully admitting his kind
intentions. " You wouldn't do it yourself."
" No, I wouldn't," said Hurst virtuously. " I
wouldn't even go to town but that I have to see Mr.
Grain, the lawyer, about your property. I shall be
glad when I can hand it over to you, my dear. But
if you won't seek amusement — and perhaps you are
right not to do so under the circumstances — let us
do what we can to be happy. Get Dr. Smith and
Miles to come oftener to the Hall. We can have
some music and play bridge. The Vicar and his
wife might come too."
All this attention impressed Melicent, as it was
intended to impress her, that Hurst really loved her
and wished to make her happy. There were many
merry evenings at the Hall, now that the first sorrow
over the Squire's death had passed away, and every-
one declared that Hurst was behaving like a father
to his niece. Melicent gradually got over her mis-
trust of the man, and believed that in some way
Sylvia had deceived her about the engagement.
She only rarely heard from Sylvia, and the letters
were mostly about nothing. No word was said
of Ralph and his tyranny, and little mention was
made of him at all, so gradually the girl was lulled
into a feeling of peace and happiness. Miles was
glad to see this, and did not disturb Melicent by
questioning the honesty of Ralph. All the same, he
still mistrusted him, and was more watchful than
ever. Believing, on the evidence of the postscript,
that Hurst had forced the engagement on Sylvia,
he could not believe the man to be the kindly, inno-
cent old gentleman he showed himself to be. He
thought that Hurst was playing a part, and playing
it very successfully, for every one, both high and low,
were loud in their praises of Ralph's kindness to his
niece and to the household generally. What Mrs.
Frint thought Darch could not learn. She never
said anything more to him and avoided him alwa3's.
The barrister questioned Jum, but he was loyal to
the housekeeper and pretended that he knew nothing.
All the same, Darch felt certain that the lad knew
a great deal.
Melicent nearly met with a bad accident at the
end of the fortnight which had elapsed since her
return to the Hall. She was about to descend the
staircase when her foot slipped on a pea, and she
just saved herself by cHnging to the banisters.
Astonished that a pea should be in such a place,
the girl knelt down and found that there were
many, not only on the landing, but on the stairs
themselves. These were polished, and the stair-
carpet, from long use, was very worn, so if she
had not stumbled at the top, she would probably
have slipped on the peas and fallen headlong
down the stairs. A broken neck would certainly
have been the sure result. Her sudden cry of
astonishment brought out her uncle, who was in
" What's the matter, child ? " he asked, looking
up the stairs.
" Peas are the matter," said Melicent, still holding
on to the banisters, for although she had slipped
down to kneel and make her examination, she had
igS THE BLACK IMAGE.
nut let go, very wisely. " The stairs are strewn
" Dear ! dear ! " Ralph ran up cautiously, not
wishing to fall himself. " How very dangerous.
Who dropped these peas ? "
" I don't know."
Hurst frowned and returned to the library, asking
Mclicent to follow him. He rang the bell for Mrs.
Print, gave her orders, and shortly all the servants
appeared to be asked searching questions. Every
one of them denied any knowledge of the peas, until
Jum stepped forward to be examined. In a doleful
voice and with some tears he admitted that he had
bought a pea-shooter in the village and a bag of peas
with it. In his hurry when coming down the stairs
he must have dropped some of the peas. He was
very sorry ; he would not be so careless again, and
by meekly submitting to a scolding he strove to
mitigate Hurst's righteous wrath.
" You're a young monkey," cried Ralph angrily.
" Miss Melicent might have slipped and broken
her neck, thanks to your carelessness. I have
a good mind to send j^ou back to your slum in
" Oh, don't do that, sir," pleaded Mrs. Frint, who
looked more haggard than ever, "for I'm sure
Frederick will never do it again."
" I'm sorry ; I'm very sorry," whimpered Jum,
thrusting his knuckles into his eyes. " I'm sure I
wouldn't hurt Miss Melicent for the world."
Then the girl herself pleaded for the culprit, and
with some difhculty induced her uncle to overlook
the matter. " He's only a boy, Uncle Ralph, and
boys will make mistakes."
" This mistake might have cost you a broken neck,
or .a the least a twisted ankle," said Hurst severely.
" However, since you ask me, I have no wish to be
hard on the boy. Jiim, go and pick up the peas,
and thank your stars that Miss MeUcent is so for-
giving. Remember, all of you, that now my brother
is dead I am responsible for the safety of my niece.
The servants, with Mrs. Print at their head,
departed thankfully, for they had never seen Ralph
in such a rage. Jum picked up the peas at once,
but had a bad time in the kitchen for having
brought trouble on his fellow-servants. So the
incident passed off all right, and in a few days
was wholly forgotten. Frederick Marr was over-
whelmed with sorrow at his carelessness, and threw
away his pea-shooter when ]\Irs. Frint ordered
him to do so. She scolded the boy herself very
Although the nipping autumnal air of early Sep-
tember was making itself felt, the weather was still
bright and sunny. Melicent spent a great deal of
her time in the garden, taking her fancy-work and
a book to some favoured spot for an hour or so.
One seat she particularly liked was placed under a
large elm-tree on the verge of the lawns, spreading
greenly before the front of the great mansion. Here
the girl could see the beautiful old building to great
advantage, a \ast expanse of blue sky, in which
white pigeons whirled, and the brilliant colours of
what flowers remained in bloom at this late season
of the year. Ralph noticed that she frequently sat
here and objected to her doing so.
" Elm trees are treacherous, Melicent," he
warned her gravely. " Their boughs fall when
least expected. Don't you think so. Miles ? "
he asked the young man, who happened to be
" Well, yes," said ]\Iiles carelessly, and not attach-
ing much attention to the warning. " They make
200 THE BLACK IMAGE.
coffins of elm wood, so I suppose the tree is always
trying to kill people in order that the coffins may be
" What a horrid remark," said Melicent with a
shiver. " But my elm-tree is all right. I've never
seen a bough fall from it."
" That doesn't say that a bough will not fall,"
retorted her uncle sharply. " Find another place to
Out of sheer contrariness Melicent would not, and
still continued to take her work and her book to the
seat under the mighty tree. But, as afterwards was
proved, Hurst spoke truly. Only two days after the
conversation the catastrophe happened, and it
would have been a terrible one but for the clever-
ness of Jum. Evidently repentant of his folly over
the spilt peas the boy haunted IMelicent's steps,
attending to her in e\^ery way, and rather worried
her with his persistent civility. The girl was seated
as usual in her favourite spot, reading and sewing,
when Jum issued from the house with a glass of milk
on a tray. For the last hour he had been lurking in
the house and out of the house with his eyes on his
young mistress. So that he might approach her the
more nearly he invented the excuse of bringing her
the glass of milk on the plea that she might be
thirsty. Melicent looked up and saw him coming,
then bent over her work again. But from this she
was aroused by a yell from the boy, and looked again
to see him writhing on the ground, the tray fallen
from his hands and the milk spilt.
" Oh, miss, miss. Come and help me ; come
and — oh — oh — oh ! " he pressed his hands to his
Alarmed by the sight and the sudden screams of
the boy, Melicent rose in a hurry, letting fall her book
and fancy-work in order to fly to Jum's assistance.
Scarcely had she passed from under the shelter of
the elm when a gigantic bough crashed down on the
very place where she had been sitting a moment
before. Had she remained an instant longer she
would have been a dead woman, or at least terribly
injured. With a gasp of thankfulness that she had
escaped the danger, Melicent hurried up to Jum,
only to find him on his feet again, white as a sheet,
but very much relieved.
" It's all right, miss," he said, getting his breath
back ; " there is nothing the matter with me. But
I saw the bough bending, and pretended to be sick
so as to get you from under the tree."
" Oh, Jum! " Melicent took the lad's hand and
pressed it, " you have saved my life I really believe,"
and she looked at the enormous bianch with a
shudder. " How awful ! "
" Well, I nearly killed you with those silly peas
the other day, miss," faltered Jum, quite overcome,
" so I'm glad I've had a chance of making it up. Oh,
here is Mr. Ralph, miss ! He will be glad to know
you are safe."
" Mr. Ralph ! He's gone to the \icaragc," said
But it was Ralph, as Jum said. He had been to
the vicarage, as it appeared, and was returning uj)
the avenue when he heard the piercing cries of jum
and the loud crash of the fallen bough. With
a startled face he came running round the corner on
to the lawn, apprehensive that something terrible had
" Child ! child ! what is the matter ? " He
hastened to take his niece in his arms and looked
from her to Jum, from them to the fallen bough.
" Yes, uncle," said Melicent, who now felt terri-
fied, queerly enough, seeing that the danger was
202 THE BLACK IMAGE.
over. " I might have been killed by that bough
but for Jum. He pretended to be ill and I ran to
his assistance just as the branch fell. Oh ! " Melicent
shuddered, " how lucky I didn't wait."
" You would have been dead by this time if
you had," said her uncle grimly. " So now you
will perhaps obey my instructions and not sit under
elm-trees' again. Foolish child, to disregard my
" I'll not do it again," said the girl, pale and
quivering, for the shock of her narrow escape had
shaken her, " but thank Jum, uncle. He saved
" Jum, I am pleased with you." Hurst patted
the boy on the head. " I had to scold you the other
da}^ but you have made amends ; j^ou have made
" I'm only too glad to have saved Miss Melicent,
sir," said Jum thankfully.
" Well, there's ten shillings for j'ou, though money
can't repay you for saving my niece's life. Melicent,
Melicent," he turned to take the girl's arm and walk
towards the house, " I wish you would marry Miles
at once and relieve me of the responsibility of looking
after you. This is the second time within the last
week you have been in danger of death."
" It's my own fault," admitted Melicent peni-
tently ; " you warned me against sitting under
" Well, don't be so foolish again. Go in and lie
down, my dear, while I have a look at this fallen
Melicent meekly did as she was told and went to
her room, ^^'hen she came down two hours later
the branch had been chopped up and taken away.
Only a jagged protruding limb of the tree showed
where it had broken off. But the girl never sought
that seat again, and indeed, after the accident the
seat itself was removed by her uncle's order. He
repeated, and very truh% that elms were dangerous
trees to sit under.
There was no doubt that Melicent's narrow escape
on this occasion made her nervous, and it was small
wonder that she should be so, as Miles told her when
he heard the stor3^ He made the girl promise to
be more careful for the future, but made no other
comment on the matter which, after all, was one of
those untoward accidents which will happen at
times. Melicent obeyed him and was watchful of
herself not to sit or stand in any dangerous place.
The concentration on this point — the point of avoid-
ing possible danger — made her ill and worried her
considerably. She retired early to bed for the next
three nights and benefited by long, dreamless sleeps.
That is, for the first two nights, her sleep was undis-
turbed. But on the third night she wooed slumber
in vain. Again and again she tried to get rest, but
still felt wakeful. Finally, towards the morning, she
closed her eyes and slipped off into an uneasy dream-
land. How long she slept she did not know ; what were
her dreams she could not tell sa\'e that they were un-
pleasant. But all at once she woke with a feeling
that some one was in the room. With a terrified
start she opened her eyes, to sec a tall, dark figure
standing beside her bed. As she had locked the
door before retiring to rest, and no one could have
entered, she believed that she was looking at a
ghost. And the faint light of the growing dawn
stealing in through the window — for the blind was
up — showed her that the face of the ghost was that
of Mam'zel Clarice. There she stood, draped in a
long, loose mantle, looking pale and evil. As the
girl gazed at her, spell-bound, the ghost — if it was
one — bent forward to whisper in soft, sibilant tones :
204 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Go away ; go away from here. There is danger,
danger, danger ! "
The sight of that ghastl}^ face so near to her own,
the hissing whisper, and the lonely circumstance of
the room at dawn, was too much for Melicent's nerves.
She fainted straight away. Wlien she came to her-
self it was broad daylight ; the door was still locked,
and the room was empty.
MRS. print's advice.
RALPH laughed loudly at his niece's story,
which was natural enough, considering how
fantastic it really was. He declared that
she must have been dreaming, since by her own
showing she had locked the door of her room over-
night, and no one could possibly have got in. But
.Alelicent insisted that she had actually seen Mam'zel
Clarice, and that she must be concealed somewhere
about the big house. Hurst, finally impressed by
her persistence, sent for the servants, who came
lather sulkily to the library. They were always
being summoned and examined, so naturally were
growing rather tired of the atmosphere of suspicion
which engendered constant cross-questioning. First
they were heckled over the murder ; then about the
affair of the spilt peas, and now they were being
l)ut in the witness-box in connection with the pos-
sible reappearance of IMiss Brown. But this last
examination, having a ghostly flavour, rather inter-
ested them, although they were markedly afraid.
The idea of a haunted house scared them con-
One and all declared that they had seen nothing
of Mam'zel Clarice ; they had heard nothing of her ;
2o5 THE BLACK IMAGE
and that there was nothing to show that she had
been near the place. Two or three of the domestics
gave notice, saying they did not intend to remain
in a haunted house and there w^as quite a commo-
tion over the whole affair. When the servants left
the library Hurst turned towards Melicent with an
angry look, and scolded her more thoroughly than
he had ever done in his life.
" You see what a lot of trouble you are bringing
on us," he said severely. " I wish 3'ou hadn't told
this cock-and-bull story."
" My story is perfectly true, Uncle Ralph," she
" It was a dream. No one could have got into
the room w^hen the door was fast locked. But by
telling this ridiculous tale you have made the ser-
vants believe that the Hall is haunted. We shall
have a perfect exodus."
" I can't help the servants being silly, Uncle
Ralph. And if they go we can get others."
" Not easily. You know how superstitious the
people are round about this place. No one will
come, and then we'll be in a nice pickle. You and
" I never said it was a ghost," protested Melicent,
with tears in her eyes, for Ralph's manner was very
severe ; " and I don't believe it was one. That
woman came and spoke to me."
" Wliat did she say ? You never told me,"
"She said that I should go awa}^; that there was
Hurst turned away hastily and went to poke the
fire vehemently. " I never heard such rubbish.
WTiat danger can there be in your own home ? "
" She said that there was danger," repeated the
girl insistently, " and she repeated the word three
times. As it's Saturday and Miles is at home I
MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 207
have sent for him. He'll be here soon, and he won't
scoff at me as you are doing."
" My dear child, I am not scoffing at yon. I only
want you to talk sensibly."
" I am talking sensibly. Have the house
" Because you imagine things ? Melicent, don't
J, The girl, who was losing her temper, might have
replied hotly but that Miles entered at the moment.
He had come over immediately Jum brought Meli-
cent's message, and was relieved to see that she was
all right. The girl told him what she had told her
uncle, and Hurst repeated his objections to believing
so preposterous a talc. Miles was inclined to doubt
Melicent 's narrative also, since it was impossible
that Mam'zel Clarice could have remained con-
cealed in the house for so long without being dis-
covered. But a glance at the anxious face of the
girl made him apparently accept what she said as
true, and he suggested that Hurst should do what
" Send to Serbery for Jupp and have the house
searched," said Darch seriously.
" Then you believe this silly story ? "
" Well, Melicent is not an imaginative girl, as
a rule, and she has no reason to invent things."
" But the door of the bedroom was locked."
" Mam'zel might have come in some other way,"
said Melicent sullenly.
" Down the chimney, or in at the window, which
is many feet from the ground, 3'ou silly girl.
" There might be some secret door or sliding panel
in this old house," said Darch reflectively ; " and
we know that the Hall is hundreds of years old."
" I know every inch of the Hall," said Hurst
208 THE BLACK IMAGE.
crossl}/. " And as I have lived here all my life long
I would know if there were secret doors and panels.
Howe\'er, let us ask Mrs. Frint. She knows the
place just as well as I do, and even better."
So Mrs. Frint, in her black gown and with her
sorrowful, wasted face, was called in. She said that
she knew of nothing secret about the Hall, and that,
so far as she was concerned, she believed that Miss
Melicent had seen a ghost by her bedside. This
declaration brought Hurst's wrath down on her.
" You silly old woman, you were always super-
stitious," he said angrily, "and to prove how
ridiculously you are talking, I'll agree to Melicent's
absurd suggestion and have the Hall searched from
cellar to attic."
" And if you find nothing, Mr. Ralph ? " asked the
" Then I'll believe that Melicent was dreaming.
Ghost indeed ; as if a ghost ever existed out of
" I agree with you. Uncle Ralph," said Melicent
positively. " There are no such things as ghosts."
" Oh, Miss Melicent, when you have seen one with
3^our very own eyes ! "
" It wasn't a ghost, Frint, but the woman herself ! "
" Well, we'll settle the question." Ralph walked
to his writing-table and dashed off a note, which
he put into an envelope. " Frint, have this taken
over to Inspector Jupp at Serbery at once."
Mrs. Frint took the letter and walked out. She
still held to her opinion, and turned at the door to
deliver it again. " You'll find nothing and no one,
Mr. Ralph," she said, shaking her head ; " it's a
When the housekeeper left the room Melicent
would have again talked of the matter in hand, but
Ralph refused to listen. " Jupp will be here in an
MRS PRINT'S ADVICE. 209
hour or two," he said irritably, " and I don't want
to say anything or hear anything until he has made
an official search. Miles, I really wish you would
marry Melicent at once. She's getting on my
nerv'CS. There is nothing but trouble in connection
" It's not my fault, Uncle Ralph. Blame Hecate,
for her hand is still closed."
" That's another of your superstitions," he retorted
angrily, " and one which has been explained away.
Mam'zel, according to Jupp's theory, bent the
leaden fingers of the statue into the shape of the
clenched fist before she climbed that wall to stab
your father. I told her the idiotic legend of the
image when she first came here. I do wish you'd
" I'm ready to marry Melicent within twenty-
four hours, if she likes," said the young man
" Perhaps I'll agree," said Melicent, tossing her
head. " I don't want to stay where I'm not
Ralph's face fell perceptibly when she said this,
and Miles saw it fall. He believed privately that
the man was bluffing and that, far from wanting his
niece to marry, he would prevent the ceremony from
taking place if she showed a desire to agree with
him. However, Hurst said nothing, and soon re-
sumed his usual expression of countenance, waving
the two young people out of the library as he did so.
They left the room willingly enough, as they had
much to say to one another. And Miles particularly
wished to get Melicent to himself.
" My dear," he said gravely, and when they were
walking in the garden, so that no one might over-
hear, " I wish you'd do what your uncle suggests,
and marry me at once,"
210 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" My father has been dead only two months.
"I know; and that is why your uncle suggests
our immediate marriage."
" \\n.mt do you mean ? "
" I mean that he knows you would not agree
" But Uncle Ralph wants me to marry you so that
he can be free to marry Sylvia," said Melicent,
amazed by his speech.
"If your uncle marries Sylvia he will have to leave
the Hall," said the young man sharply ; " and even
if he doesn't marry her, I don't want him to stay
hanging round here when we become husband and
wife. Therefore, as he would lose his home, he
wishes to prevent our marriage. Did you see the
look on his face when you said that you might fall
in with his suggestion, Melicent ? "
" No ; don't be hard on uncle, Miles, and try to
put me against him again."
"I am not trying to do that. I said nothing to
make you fear him."
" No," admitted the girl frankly, " it was because
I thought he coerced Sylvia into getting engaged
to him that I v/as afraid. But perhaps Sylvia has
not been quite open w^ith me, and her mother
may be at the bottom of things. I am not
afraid of Uncle Ralph now. He is always kind
Miles was embarrassed. He felt confident that
Hurst did not mean well by his niece, but ch'd not
wish to alarm her unduly. The girl had been shaken
by her father's murder : shaken by the suspicions
she entertained of her uncle, which she had now
overcome ; and now she was shaken by the reap-
pearance of Miss Brown either in the spirit or in the
flesh. Darch felt that if he spoke too plainly she
MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 211
would probably become hysterical. So he curbed
his desire to be frank and tried to argue her into an
immediate wedding. Only in that way, he silently
believed, could he secure her safety. But although
he spent over an hour in talking the matter out
Melicent refused to agree. She still had a haunting
feeling that she had been an undutiful daughter, and
so wished to show respect to her father's memory by
refusing to accept what she most desired. In her
own heart she wished to marry Miles at once and
put an end to all the trouble which had taken place
since Hecate first closed her hand. But an over-
strained feeling of remorse prevented her from
indulging in this desire.
In due time Inspector Jupp arrived, with two
detectives in plain clothes, and was greatly excited
by the summons he had recei\ed. He scouted Mrs.
Print's idea of a ghost, and agreed with Melicent
that she had seen the missing woman as a real flesh
and blood person. As to Hurst, he declared that
the whole thing was due to his niece's vivid imagina-
tion and constant brooding over the murder. He
was certain that Jupp and his myrmidons would find
nothing, but gave them full permission to search
the house. This they did with zeal.
From the cellars to the attic they searched, and
made a particular examination of Melicent 's bed-
room. The great mansion was a queer, rambling,
ancient structure, some of it excessively old, and
other parts comparatively modern. There were
many rooms which led into one another ; narrow
passages which led to nowhere and odd little stairs
all over the place. Sometimes they had to step up
to a room ; sometimes they had to step down into
a room, and found so many queer twistings and turn-
ings that the Inspector became quite bewildered.
It was a rabbit warren of an house, in which any-
212 THE BLACK IMAGE.
one could have hidden successfully, and this idea
made Jupp still more zealous in his search for
Mam'zel Clarice. He knew that if he found her,
great glory would accrue to him, as a zealous and
efficient officer of the law. But nothing came of his
efforts, or the efforts of the detectives, assisted
though they were by Melicent, her uncle, Miles and
Mrs. Frint. They all rapped at panels, took down
ancient pictures, shook old draperies, and tested the
floors. Some strange hiding-places they certainly
did fmd, but these were empty, so in the end Jupp
had to confess himself beaten.
■" I'm afraid I must agree with your uncle. Miss
Hurst," he said disconsolately ; " you had the
"I had not," she denied crossly. "I was as
wide awake as you are at the present moment and
much more sensible. How the woman got into my
room I do not know, but she was there right
" If she was in the house, we should have found
her," said the Inspector. " We have searched
every hole and corner."
Ralph laughed. " Nothing will convince my niece
that the woman is not in the house," he said loudly.
" So suppose — with her consent, of course — we
burn down the place. Then Mam'zel Clarice, if she
is hiding, will have to come out."
"It's all very well laughing, Uncle Ralph, but I
hold to my story."
" A nightmare, Miss Hurst, believe me," said the
Inspector indulgently, as he stepped into his motor
and signed that the plain-clothes detectives should
take their seats. " If she appears to you again, lay
hold of her, and let me know. Nothing would give
me greater pleasure than to bring her to book."
and he drove away, laughing.
MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 213
" Well, my dear," said Hurst, when the car
whizzed out of sight, " we've had enough of this, I
think. I'm going to have a quiet read in the library ;
and you can talk to Miles. Walk in the garden ;
it will charm away your fancies."
Out of sheer contradiction and because he spoke
so scoffingly, Melicent refused to return to the
garden with her lover. " We'll go to the Sanctuary,
for the gloom of that just suits my feelings at the
Hurst shrugged his huge shoulders. " You'll have
your hands full of a wilful girl when you marry
Melicent, Miles," he said, with a laugh, and stalked
Mrs. Frint, who had preserved a rigid face through-
out the search, listened with open ears to this harm-
less conversation. When Hurst retired into the
library, she made sure that he was within and
settled to an hour's reading, by listening at the door.
Then she took her way through the hall, along
the passage and into the Squire's study. The lovers
were walking in the Sanctuary, with their arms
round one another, looking up every now and then
at the gigantic figure of Hecate glooming in
the sunshine with her clenched fists and sinister
face. She looked like an evil spirit threatening
the young people with disaster. And indeed, she
had brought disaster on ,them very heavily as it
" Miss Melicent," called out Mrs. Frint, stepping
out on to the terrace, " I want to speak to you and
to Mr. Darch there."
" All right," said the girl carelessly, while Miles
looked up with sudden interest. " Come and sit
down on the terrace."
" You and Mr. Darch can sit, miss. I'll stand,"
said the woman, and descending the steps, took
214 THE BLACK IMAGE.
up her position before them. " TeU me again
what the ghost said to you, Miss MeUcent."
" It wasn't a ghost, Frint," was the imi:>atient
reply, " it was really and truly Mam'zel Clarice."
" Well, have it your own way. Miss Melicent. Only
tell me again what she said ? "
" She said that there was danger here and that I
should go away."
Mrs. Frint nodded. " And you will obey ? "
" No. Why should I ? "
" If there's danger, it's just as well to get away
from danger," said the woman, with a sombre light
in her eyes. " Take the warning, miss, and go."
" Bat where can I possibly go to, Frint. This
is my home."
" Marry Mr. Darch at once, and he'll make
another home for you."
" But why should I ? " asked Melicent, looking
impressed by this persistence.
" Because the ghost advised you to get avv'ay from
" Is there danger really, Mrs. Frint ? " asked
" Miss Melicent nearly broke her neck v/hen she
slipped on those peas. She only escaped the fall
of that bough by a miracle. I should think there
was danger. Go while it is time."
" But those were accidents," said Miss Hurst
" Arranged accidents," corrected Mrs. Frint
grimly, " and more will be arranged if you don't
Miles jumped up, horrified, to find his worst
suspicions confirmed in this way. " Do you mean
to say that Mr. Hurst "
" I say nothing of him," interrupted the house-
keeper, turning on him fiercely, " and j^ou know
MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 215
that I never have said anything. All I do say is
that a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse.
Don't be a fool, sir, and let Miss Melicent have
her own wa\'. Bundle her neck and crop out of
this house and drag her to the altar if she won't go
" Frint " — Melicent was on her feet also by this
time, and gasped with rage — " I never heard you
speak like this before."
" You hear me now," said the housekeeper
" How dare you ; how dare you ? "
" Because I'm fond of you, Miss Melicent, because
I nursed you, because I want to see you happy and "
— Mrs. Frint dropped her voice — " safe."
" JMelicent, take Mrs. Print's advice "
" The ghost's advice," interposed the woman
" And marry me at once," finished Miles. " You
are not safe here."
" Who is not safe here ? " inquired a bland voice,
and the three turned to see Ralph standing at the
door of the study. His voice was calm and
bland, but his great red face was convulsed with
rage. Mrs. Print gave a cry of alarm when she
saw his furious looks, and he turned on her with a
snarl. " You may well cry out, you shameless
woman. I have listened to your talk about Melicent
leaving her home. You listened at the door of the
library, thinking I was safe for an hour, while you
poisoned my niece's ears. But I heard you, I followed
you, and I have been listening to everything.
Frint, you shall pack up to-night and go to-morrow,
bag and baggage."
" I refuse," said the housekeeper in a frightened
" You can refuse or not, as you like, but out you
2i6 THE BLACK IMAGE.
go. I've put lip long enough with your silly talk,
and poisonous hints."
" Uncle Ralph," cried Melicent with great spirit,
" Frint is my serv^ant, not yours. She shan't go,"
and Melicent stamped, with her ej^es flashing
" Hold your tongue," said Hurst brutally.
" Gently," interposed Darch, his colour rising,
" Don't you meddle."
" Oh, but I shall. Melicent is engaged to marry
me, and "
" She shall never marry you," declared Ralph
Miles sprang up the steps so suddenly that Hurst
fell back a step or two into the room, thinking he
was about to be struck. But the young man,
although his fists were clenched, kept his temper
admirably, and he faced the bully very calmly.
" She shall marry me, and you shall behave properly
to her until she does marry me."
" I'm Melicent's guardian, and I'll do what I
like both with her and this fiend of a Frint. You
hear, Frint. Out you go."
Melicent threw her arms round the woman.
" She shan't go."
" She shall, and you'll go to your room until
I send for you."
" Stop it. Hurst," said Darch firmly. " You're
not going to behave in this way towards my future
wife. If Melicent is wise she will come with me,
now that she sees you as you really are, and not
what you have pretended to be for so many lying
" I shall stay here," said Melicent, whose blood
was up, " and I'm quite able to face you, Uncle
Ralph. I'm not afraid of you. Frint shall stay,
MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 217
and I shall act just as I please. Miles, you can
go now. Come back to-morrow morning." Then,
when he hesitated, she added, " I'm quite safe."
" Very good," said the barrister, although he was
reluctant to leave her. " But you understand,
Hurst, that if anything happens to Melicent I shall
hold you responsible. There must be no more " —
he brought his face close to that of the angry man —
Hurst turned white, stared at Miles, and then
walked away in the silence, opening and shutting
his hands as if he wished to strangle the three of
them. And it is tolerably certain that he did so
IT might be thought from Darch's opinion of
Hurst's character, which was confirmed by the
man's outbreak, that he would be afraid to
leave the girl he loved in the power of such a
scoundrel. But the barrister knew very well that
scoundrels value the safety of their own skins,
and therefore, this particular scamp, knowing that
he was suspected, would be cautious how he acted.
The accidents, on the authority of Mrs. Frint, Miles
believed to be no accidents, but well-planned schemes
to get rid of Melicent. That the first had not
succeeded was due to Providence ; that she had
escaped the danger of the second was due to Jum's
quick wit. But Miles did not think that Hurst
would risk setting further traps, since he now knew
that if anything untoward happened to his niece,
he would be brought to book. This being the case,
Darch had no hesitation in allowing Melicent to
remain at the Hall.
All the same, he was anxious, and felt relieved
when Jum made his appearance to inform him that
Melicent was quite well. It v/as Sunday, and the
boy was dressed in his best to go to church, where
he sang in the choir. On the way hither he had
slipped in to calm the barrister's mind, knowing
that he would be anxious. But there was another
thing which incited the lad to call, and that had to
do with Mrs. Frint.
" She's gone," said Jum, with his lip quivering and
his eyes filled with tears, when Darch asked after the
" Gone ! " remembering how Melicent had insisted
upon the woman remaining, it seemed impossible
that Hurst could have forced her to go. But it
appeared that he had compelled her departure, and
was evidently a bolder scoundrel than Darch had
given him credit for being. " I didn't think,
he would have gone so far as that," said the lawyer
Jum dried his eyes, with a gorgeous red silk
handkerchief. " Mrs. Print's my aunt, sir," he said,
" Your aunt, boy." This was a revelation to
Darch, who had always thought that the page was
a mere gutter-snipe, without education, money,
home or friends.
Jum nodded. " I never said anything about it
before, sir, as my aunt thought it wasn't any one's
business but hers and mine. My mother, her
sister, sir, was born here, but went up to service in
London. She married my father, who was a coach-
man, and afterwards he drove a cab. But when I
was born, father took to drink, and died, leaving my
mother with no money. She went out as a cook,
sir, and worked hard for years. Then she died and
I was left all alone without any one to look after me.
I starved, and slept an3Awhere, and got to sell
papers, and run errands. Then my aunt came to
town and called at the place in Camden Town
where we used to live. She managed to trace me and
brought me down to be a page. The Squire knew
that she was my aunt, and so he allowed her to have
me in the house."
220 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" And Mr. Hurst — did he know ? "
" Yes ! " Jum stole a searching glance at the
speaker. " You don't know him."
"I am beginning to know him," said Miles
" You don't know him," repeated the boy.
" You remember that image Nebuchadnezzar
dreamed about, sir ? " ^
" The one with the feet of clay ? "
" And the head of gold," said Jum rapidly.
" That's like Mr. Hurst."
" More clay than gold about him, Jum, I'm'afraid."
" He's a strange mixture," said Jum in his old-
fashioned way. " Good and bad and bad and good.
If you knew — well, sir, I don't want to say anything
against him, as he has been very kind to me. And
yet " He hesitated.
" If you know anything about him that I should
know, Jum, you must tell me."
" I'll do that, sir. After all, I owe more to miy
aunt than to him. And he had no right to turn her
out of a place where she has been these forty years."
" When did she go ? "
" Last night at eight o'clock. Mr. Ralph drove
her himself to the Brant station in the motor."
" Why not to Serbery ? That is the usual way we
all go to town."
" I don't know, sir. He took her to Brant with
her bag, saying that he would send on her luggage
when she wrote about her address in London.
Miss Melicent insisted that my aunt should remain,
but Mr. Hurst would make her go."
" Did Mrs. Frint go willingly ? "
" No, she didn't, sir. And I'm sure that if she
had fought, with Miss Melicent to back her, that
Mr. Hurst would have had to give way. But she
only wept and said that she had to obey Mr. Hurst."
" Why had she to obey him ? "
" I don't know." Juin spoke through his clenched
teeth, and his young face grew dark. " But I'll
pay him out for treating my aunt so. Kind as
he has been to me, she has been kinder. And I
know a thing or two, which Mr. Ralph wouldn't
" Tell me, Jum." Darch spoke sharply.
The boy retreated towards the door. " It isn't
yet time," he said quickly. " But you'll know soon
" Know what ? "
" Wliat kind of man Mr. Ralph really is."
Darch would have asked further questions, but
Jum vanished in his usual rapid way, and was out of
the house before Miles could lay hold of him. The
boy evidently knew something of moment, since he
was in the confidence of Mrs. Frint, who was well
acquainted with Hurst and his doings. Miles,
wishing he could force the boy to be frank, went
to see Toby and tell him of the conversation. The
doctor was just getting ready to see a patient some
ten miles away, and had little time to spare. Darch
caught him in the yard, stepping into the motor.
Insisting upon his waiting for a few minutes, he
related what he had heard from the page.
" Wliat do you think, Toby ? "
" I think you had better leave Jum to tell what
he knows in his own good time," answered the doctor,
drawing on his gloves. " I am as anxious to get
at the truth about Hurst as you are. Miles, on
account of Sylvia. But Jum is evidently divided
in his allegiance. He loves his aunt and he is grateful
to Hurst. Let the boy alone. Miles. If you try to
force his confidence he may run away to his aunt in
London, and then we'll lose the only two people who
know the truth about this blackguard."
222 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Well, perhaps you are right," admitted Darch
pondering. " After all, Jum is a sharp lad, and has
the sense of a man. But I rather think he inclines
more to his aunt than to Hurst, so in the long run
he'll side with her. Then he'll let out all he knows."
" That won't be pleasant for Hurst," said Toby
vindictively. " There will be trouble when his
Bluebeard's chamber is opened. Jum has the key."
" So has Mrs. Frint, if we could only find her."
" Oh, you'll find her. Miles ! She'll write to Jum
when she's settled in London. Then I'll see her
myself and learn, if possible, what means Hurst
took to force Lady Gibson into agreeing to his
marriage with Sylvia."
" Has Sylvia written to you, Toby ? "
" No. I have received no letter since that one
saying she intended to throw me over and marry this
" What does your uncle say ? "
" Nothing, except — ^wait. He believes that this
forced marriage has to do with Mam'zel Clarice and
with the murcler of the Squire."
Darch uttered an exclamation. *' Does your
uncle think that Hurst is an accessory before the
fact ? "
" He won't say. Uncle George is too cautious to
say much. But I think he has his suspicions. He's
gone to Paris."
"To see the French secret police people and
learn all he can about Mam'zel Clarice. Also,
incidentally, he wishes to make cautious inquiries
about Lady Gibson's secret."
" Oh, that idea of his that the French police
know it, is very far-fetched."
" It may be," replied Toby gloomily, and stepping
into the car. " Anyhow, Uncle George will learn
all he can about this woman, and one thing may lead
to another. You never know. The old man's as bent
as I am upon saving Sylvia from this scoundrel."
Toby drove away to see his patient, as the church
bells stopped ringing for the morning service. Darch
returned to the house, and was half-minded to go
over to the Hall and see Melicent, so as to learn
exactly what had taken place in connection with the
departure of Mrs. Frint. But knowing that Melicent
made a point of going to church, especially since
the death of her father, and not being anxious for
an interview with Hurst, he decided to Vv-ait until
the afternoon. Then the unexpected happened, for
half an hour later, when Miles was pottering about
the garden, Hurst himself made his appearance. He
looked big and bluff, as usual ; but his bland, kindly
air had given place to an arrogant demeanour,
v.'hich was highly unpleasant. Since his brother's
death it was remarkable to see the change in the
man. Formerly a gentle old book worm, loved by
all because of his sweet disposition, he had become
an overbearing man of the world, imperious and
" I wish to have a few words with you, Darch,"
he said, pushing open the gate in an aggressive
way. " We must understand one another."
" I quite agree with you," retorted the barrister,
wondering why the visit was paid, and resolving
to make the best use of the opportunity. " Come
inside. I am at your disposal for as long as you
" Oh, a quarter of an hour will do. Miles," said
Hurst, with a touch of his old kindly way, which
somehow made him more objectionable than ever.
They entered the sitting-room, through the
French window, and Hurst sat down in a comfort-
able arm-chair with his back to the light. He
224 THE BLACK IMAGE.
produced a cigar-case, and offered it to his host,
who had taken a seat opposite to him. The offer
was dechned, whereat Ralph laughed genially, and
lighted a cigar on his own account.
" You won't accept the modern equivalent for
bread and salt from me."
" Well, no," said Darch very directly. " I don't
" May I ask why ? " Hurst smoked in quite a
composed manner, and evidently had himself well
" Ask yourself. Remember the scene yesterday
in the Sanctuary when you threatened to turn out
Mrs. Frint in a most brutal manner."
" I have turned her out."
" So Jum came over and told me."
Hurst's face grew dark and his eyes narrowed. " If
that brat comes here telling 3^ou what goes on in my
house, he'll go too."
" Pardon me, the Hall is not your house," retorted
" For the time being it is. I am Melicent's
guardian for the next few weeks ; and until I hand
over the property I am the master of the Hall."
" I disagree with you. You had no right to
dismiss Mrs. Frint."
"Oh, I think I had. The woman was poisoning
my niece's ears, and such treacherous conduct
requires to be punished. You need not worry your
mind over what you call my brutality, Darch. I
drove Mrs. Frint to Brant last night, and she went
away to London with a good sum of money in her
pocket. I have advised Melicent to pension her,
so she will be quite comfortable."
" When Melicent is mistress of the Hall, she will
ask her to come back."
" Qhj well ! " — Ralph made a sign to express his
indifference — " she can do as she likes when she is
mistress. I have done my best for her, and if she
chooses to beHeve Mrs. Print's Hes, there is nothing
more to be said."
" That depends upon the Hes," said Darch coolly.
" What do you mean ? " Hurst bent his brows
and looked larger and more imposing than ever.
But this frog-in-the-fable swelling had no effect
; "I mean that you are afraid of Mrs. Frint, else you
wouldn't have discharged her, as you have done."
" I have explained why I sent her away," said
Hurst coldly, " and she went away comfortably.
As to being afraid of her, why should I be ? "
" You know best, Hurst."
" Pooh ! Pooh ! You are talking nonsense."
" You know best," repeated Miles, keeping his
eyes on the big red face. It did not change either
in expression or colour.
" It seems to me, Darch, that you mistrust
me," said the man deliberately, " and my reason
for coming to see you is to ask why ? Is there
anything in my conduct towards my niece which
you condemn ? "
" On the face of it, no."
" Then why condemn me ? " asked Ralph, very
naturally, and feeling that he had decidedly scored
" I put in the saving clause, ' on the face of it,' "
retorted Darch with emphasis. " Mrs. Frint hinted
that those accidents were not accidents."
" Quite so, and for saying that I discharged her,"
replied the visitor with great calmness. " How do
you make them out to be other than accidents, I
should like to know."
" I admit the difficulty of showing that they were
arranged accidents "
226 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Hurst started to his feet indignantly, and his face
became black with rage as he spoke vehemently.
" How dare you say that ? "
" I dare a great deal in Melicent's interests," said
Miles dryly. " You may as well sit down and
listen. Hurst. Let us have it out as man to man."
" Good ! " The visitor resumed his seat and
relighted his cigar, which had gone out. " I am
ready to listen, but I warn you that if you attempt
to take away my character I shall defend myself."
" You have every right to do so."
" As to the accidents," fumed Hurst, still irritated
by the lawyer's veiled accusation. " You know
perfectly well that they were genuine enough. That
brat of a boy let fall some of the peas he was using
for his pea-shooter on the stairs, and Melicent
slipped on them. I was very angry with Jum
about the matter, and it was my niece herself who
begged me not to send him back to London. Am I
therefore responsible for that accident ? "
" On the face of it, no," said Miles again, and
" Then the other." Hurst wiped his red face
hastily. " I warned Melicent not to sit under that
elm tree. You were there yourself when I did,
and I asked your opinion about the same. She
would sit there, and a bough fell as I thought it
might. I was away at the vicarage when Melicent
went to sit there, and only returned somewhere
about the moment it fell. Did I ask her to sit under
the elm at that moment ? Did I make the bough
fall ? "
" On the face of it, no," said Darch for the
" Explain your meaning of ' on the face of it ' ? "
" I can't. All I can say is that it was strange two
accidents should have come to pass so quicldy."
" Well, then, your ' on the face of it ' really means
that in some way, which you can't explain, I brought
about those accidents ? "
" Yes. That is my meaning." Darch was quite
calm as he spoke.
" Oh ! " — Hurst grew derisive — " then you think
that I wish to kill my niece ? "
" I don't say that," answered the young man
cautiously, " but 3'ou are the next heir to the
" I see," said the visitor dryly. " What a iine
opinion you have of me."
" Can I have a good one of the man who is forcing
Sylvia Gibson into a hateful marriage by coercing
" Coercing her mother," repeated Hurst with a
start. " In what way ? "
"Ah, I don't know ! But Lad}^ Gibson would
certainly prefer her daughter to marry Constantinc
Tahinos rather than you."
" You think so," said Ralph composedly. " W'cll,
then, I shall give you an opportunity of asking
Lady Gibson's opinion on that point. In two days
she and Sylvia are coming down here to stay. Come
over some evening and ask."
" Thank you." Darch promptly accepted the
invitation. " I shall be delighted to do so. So
Sylvia marries you for love, since you are not
coercing her mother, and through her mother, S3^1via
herself ? "
" I don't say that."
" Then Syh'ia marries you for your money, when
you have only seven hundred a year, as you told
me yourself in the Hall library ?
" I don't say that either."
" What do you say, then ? "
" Nothing. I shall leave Lady Gibson and her
228 THE BLACK IMAGE.
daughter to explain. And I may as well tell you
that when I make Sylvia my wife, we are going to
" Yes, indeed. In a week I marry Sylvia by
special licence. Then I shall surrender my office as
guardian to Melicent, since you seem to think that
I fill it so badly. She will have her property and her
money, which you think I covet . Then she can marry
you, and never trouble about me again."
" I see. So that's the situation, is it ? "
" Can you ask for a better one ? " demanded
Hurst, heaving his huge bulk out of the deep chair.
" It seems to me, Darch, that I have answered all
your questions fairly and honestly. Now " — ^he
raised a big hand with a contemptuous smile —
" don't say ' on the face of it ' again."
" I am not going to."
" Because you can't. Can you prove that I
engineered those accidents, as you implied that I
did ? Can you say that I have treated my niece
badly in any way ? Have I denied her liberty,
or money, or anything she wanted ? Is she starved ?
Has she been ill-treated ? Has she a word to say
against me, save that I went against her wishes
in discharging that old hag, who was talking in the
same silly way as you are doing ? Answer me,
Darch ? "
" I can't. All you say is quite correct."
" Then why mistrust me ? "
Miles leaned against the mantelpiece with his
hands in his pockets and pondered. " Upon my
word, I can't say why I mistrust you," he said
frankly and smilingly, " but I do."
" You do ? "
" Yes ! "
" On what grounds, seeing that I have cleared
myself of everything save that I was rather bad-
tempered yesterday ? "
" I can't say."
" You are unjust. I have shown you that I have
done my best for my niece, that by going to America
I do not want her money. That by approving of
your marriage I wish her to be happy. What more in
heaven's name do you want me to tell you to prove
my good faith ? "
" I don't want you to tell me anything," said
Miles, with a shrug. " All you have told me has
been told of your own free will. I am not your
" But by spreading false reports about me, you
will make other people my judge," said Ralph hotly.
" You are unjust."
" I don't intend to spread any reports. Hurst.
What I think, I think, but I don't impart to any one
else what I do think."
The visitor heaved a sigh of relief and stepped out
of the window to walk towards the gate and depart.
As Darch followed him, he turned. " You will come
to dinner and meet Lady Gibson and Sylvia ? "
" Oh, yes, with pleasure ! After all, the Hall is
Melicent's house, and the food is her food."
" I see. Shake hands."
" Thank you, no. We are not friends."
" Then let us be enemies," said Hurst, with a roar,
and strode away, furiously.
ETWEEN the time of Ralph's unexpected visit
and the evening of the invitation to dinner,
Darch discussed the conversation frequently
with his medical friend. With the exception of the
scheme to marry Sylvia against her will, Smith
thought that Hurst had cleared his character.
Miles did not agree with him.
" Why was there need for Hurst to come here
and clear his character ? " he asked. " What I
thought, or did not think, didn't matter to him."
" Well, I don't know so much about that. You are
to marry his niece."
" Quite so. But Ralph's character in the village
is so high, and he is so carefully affectionate to his
niece, that anything I could say wouldn't matter
very much. Unless "
" Unless what ? " asked Toby moodily. He was
not particularly interested in the discussion, .since
his thoughts were concerning themselves witli
Sylvia's visit to the Hall.
" Now you come to the point," said Miles, with a
brisk nod, " unless Hurst is really the devil I believe
him to be. If so, he daren't risk the . slightest
whisper against him, for if suspicion was once
aroused, things might come out to incriminate him."
A SURPRISE. 231
" In what ? " Toby sat up to answer. " You
can't bring the accidents home to hnn, and, much
as I dishke the man, I think they were accidents."
" I don't," retorted Darch stubbornly. " He
has been clever enough to engineer them deftl}^,
but they were designed accidents all the same."
" Tliinking that, I wonder you allow Melicent to
stay at the Hall."
" Oh, she is all right now ! Hurst, knowing that
I doubt him, won't dare to tamper any longer with
Melicent's life. I have seen her three or four times
since that scene in the Sanctuary, and she says that
Ralph is treating her with every consideration."
" I thought she feared him ? "
" She did when in London, owing to his forcing
Sylvia into this marriage, as she thought that by
doing so he was a bad man. But he is behaving
so well now that she has ceased to fear him."
" But ]Mrs. Print's warning, and the warning of
]\Iam'zcl Clarice, if it was her ? "
" Those warnings have got ]\Ielicent's back up.
She fears danger always, but now that she knows
danger may come, she is bold enougli to face it."
" Then she is not on her old friendly terms with
our friend ? "
" Oh, yes — outwardly," said Darch in a meaning
way. " He is behaving scrupulously well, as I say,
and Melicent takes him at his own valuation. All
the same, she is on her guard against him and his
" But why docs she think he is dangerous, and
why do you think the same ? There is no proof,
since Hurst explained the position clearly enough
when he came here. If he really had been plotting
Melicent's death, as Mrs. Print implies, he certainly
would not surrender everything at the eleventh hour
and sneak off to America."
232 THE BLACK IMAGE.
"That's just it. You've hit it," said Miles
emphatically. " Hurst is very much afraid. It was
fear that made him dismiss Mrs. Frint, lest she
should say too much, and it was fear that brought
him over here to explain things and close my mouth.
He sighed with relief when I said that I would say
nothing, Toby. Depend upon it that, cleverly as he
has masked his doings, there is something behind all
this diplomacy which means danger to our friend,
should it be discovered."
" I wish it would be discovered, so that Sylvia
could get away from him. I'll see if I can get her to
tell me the truth to-night."
" What ! " — Darch looked surprised — " are you
going to the dinner also ? "
" Yes. Hurst sent a note to me this morning
asking me to come. Of course, I know he means to
gloat over my misery and rack my feelings by
bringing me into Sylvia's company, but I accepted
" I wonder why it was given," mused Darch.
" I have told you," said Toby impatiently^ " He
wants me to see what I have lost ; to rub it in, as you
" Would he do such a trivial thing as that ? "
" The Lord knows what he would do or would not
do, if the fancy took him. I hate the beast, and
wish he was in jail or on the gallows. All the
same, I can't see that you have any proof against
him to show that he is other than he has always
" I think Jum could tell a tale of his doings in
town," said Miles, with a shrug ; " doings that would
not be to his credit."
" Pooh ! Women and wine and cards. Those are
minor sins always condoned by society. Hurst is
only sowing a second crop of wild oats,"
A SURPRISE. 233
" Or a crop of hemp out of which will be made the
rope to hang him."
" I say ! I say ! don't go too far, old son. You
have no proof that he has done anything criminal.
He was away from home when his brother was
murdered, and in any case didn't benefit by the
death. So there's no motive to "
" I know ; I know," broke in the barrister im-
patiently. " Ralph is all right so far as we can
see, save in his forcing of this marriage. But T tell
you, Toby, that I mistrust the man, and that some
day we'll find things out which will startle every
" No evidence." Toby shook his head. " As a
lawyer, you should know that evidence is required
before you can condemn a man."
" I know that. All the same, well, it is useless to
talk in a circle. But mark my words, Toby, there's
more behind all this than meets the eye," and this
conversation between the two ended as other
conversations had ended, in no conclusion being
Of course Darch knew that his friend was right.
Hurst had exonerated himself, and if all his actions
save that which had to do with Sylvia were made
public, no one could say a word against him. It was
wholly impossible to prove that the accidents were
designed, and the dismissal of Mrs. Print was natural
enough, seeing that she was maligning her employer.
It seemed to Darch that the sole method to get at
the man in some tangible way was to find out the
secret which he used to compel Lady Gibson to con-
sent to his marriage with her daughter. But Uncle
George, in Paris, was doing his best to discover that,
so there was nothing to be done in that direction by
Darch himself. Of course, Sylvia might say some-
thing, or Lady Gibson might drop a hint ; but this
234 THE BLACK IMAGE.
was unlikely seeing how completely they were under
Hurst's big thumb.
However, Miles and Toby went to the dinner in a
fairly cheerful frame of mind. Toby, because he
would be able to speak to Sylvia, and perhaps rescue
her from this hateful marriage at the eleventh hour ;
and Miles, because he had Ralph's own word for it
that he v/as throv/ing up the sponge. Within a
week or a fortnight at the latest the man would be
on his way to the States, and then Melicent would
be her own mistress. That meant a speedy mar-
riage, for Miles resolved to induce her, if possible, to
become his wife straight away, in spite of her
mourning. And he really believed that she would
consent, since she was growing weary of constant
trouble. Her wedding would mean that a new leaf
had been turned over, and that there would be no
more sensational happenings.
Ralph, arrayed in purple and fine linen, and so
smartly dressed that he presented a great contrast
to his former untidy self, received his guests with
boisterous genialit}^ His ruddy face glowed with
pleasure, his eyes sparkled with kindness, and;he
played the part of a hospitable host to perfection.
Lady Gibson, looking pale and v^'orn, quite a shadow
of the old daj^s, but nearly as voluble, received both
the young men kindly. She seemed to have got
over her dislike for Smith, and saw him advancing
towards Sylvia without displaying an;/ irritation.
Sylvia turned a shade paler, as Toby took her hand,
and glanced in a reproachful way at her promised
husband. She evidently meant to show her annoy-
ance at this uncalled for pain v/hich he was inflicting.
But Hurst smiled all over his big face and accentu-
ated the sufferings of the girl, and indeed of Toby
" Svlvia looks well, doesn't she, doctor ? " he said,
A SURPRISE. 235
slapping the young man on the back ; " quite the
happy bride that is to be."
Smith winced and shot a look at his tormentor,
which absolutely hinted at murder, while Sylvia,
with an artificial laugh to cover her pain and shame,
retreated to the sofa. Ralph's coarse joke offended
both her mother and herself, although they did not
dare to show their displeasure. It was evident to
Darch's observant eye that both women were terri-
fied of their host, and he wondered for the hundredth
time what the secret might be. It was just when
he reached this point of his reflections that Mclicent
came into the room. She had not been there when
the young men arrived, and only hurried in when
dinner was being announced. She looked quite
bright and unafraid, running to Miles to kiss him
and to tell him exciting news.
" After dinner we must go into the Sanctuary,"
she said, taking both his hands. " There is a sur-
prise for you there."
" Has Hecate tumbled down ? "
" No ; but she has opened her hand."
All save Hurst, who knew this, exclaimed. "It
really must be some trick," said Ladj^ Gibson,
fanning herself. " A statue can't open and shut its
hand in so human a way. Ridiculous ! "
" Ridiculous or not," said Hurst, beaming. " It
is as Melicent says. Two or three days ago we found
the hand had opened. I didn't want it known all
over the village, as there has been quite enough
talk about our family affairs as it is. Therefore, I
ordered Mclicent not to say anything until now."
" But why do you give her permission now ? "
asked Darch, wondering what this new miracle
Ralph shrugged his huge shoulders. " It's bound
to become known sooner or later, so I allowed
236 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Melicent to speak, thinking it might be a pleasant
surprise to you, Darch."
" Why a pleasant surprise ? "
" Oh, Miles, can't you see ? " cried Melicent petu-
lantly. " The opening of the hand means that good
luck has returned to the family. All our troubles
are over, and now things will be all right."
" And how delightful that will be," said Lady
Gibson, shiiigging in her turn and raising her lorg-
nette to stare at the host. " How thankful we must
be to the person who has put them right."
Ralph looked at her, still smiling, so markedly
indeed, that the frivolous little woman shuddered
and turned pale under her rouge. Sylvia, standing
near, took her mother's hand as if to reassure her,
and met Hurst's gaze with haughty defiance. He
continued to smile, and rubbed his hands. " Lady
Gibson pays me a great compliment in saying that
I have put things right. I hope I have. And cer-
tainly it is within my power to put them right now
by saying that dinner is ready. You must be all
hungry, Lady Gibson,"
He offered his arm, which she took with a nervous
giggle, striving, as Miles saw, to suppress her dislike
at having to take it. Darch himself took in Mehcent,
and the doctor accompanied Sylvia. As the host
was engaged to the girl, he should have been her
companion, but it was evident that he allowed Toby
to be so in order that Sylvia might feel awkward. If
she did, she concealed her feelings very well and,
coldly smiling, took her seat at the table. Tob}^
knowing how she suffered, cursed Hurst under his
breath, but for the sake of appearances managed to
look agreeable. And Melicent was so bright that
she seemed unnaturally lively. In fact, Darch
thought that every one present was playing a part,
and he was quite sure that whatever the others felt,
A SURPRISE. 237
Ralph's part was the most difficult to sustain. To
his mind there was something gruesome about the
The meal was ever^^thing that could be desired
in the way of luxury and refinement. The table
was beautifully decorated ; the food was excellent ;
the wines were perfect, and nothing that money
could do, or taste could supply, was wanting. Ralph
was an attentive host, and kept everything going and
every one amused — so far as they could be amused
with their various preoccupations — with his con-
versation. From jokes he came to information about
the village and the family.
" Take the name Grenacer," he said expansivel3^
" Gren comes from the Anglo-Saxon grene^ which
means the colour of grass "
" Green, I suppose," said Darch dryly.
" Exactly ; Grcn means green. Acer is pure
" Meaning acre, which is very apparent," said
Darch again dryly, for it seemed to him that Hurst
was talking about nothing.
" Quite so. Grenacer, therefore, means Green-
acre, and doubtless the name was given to the village
because of the emerald hue of the site upon which
it is built. Also the River Gren really is green
" Or it flows through green banks," volunteered
Toby with a shrug.
" Ah, yes ! Perhaps that miglit be the origin of
the name. But take our family name. Hurst,
Anglo-Saxon for a wood. Thorswud means the
wood of Thor, the Norse Thunder god. So our family
name and the wood which surrounds the Sanctuary
are closely connected. Very interesting, I think."
Darch assented, but to show that he did not wish
for unnecessary information, turned to Melicent :
23S THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Why isn't Jiim here, as usual ? "
'' Oh, Jum has gone," she said hurriedly, and
glanced at her uncle.
" Yes," said Ralph, having overheard the
question and the reply. " I turned Jum away this
afternoon, after giving him a good thrashing."
" Why was that ? " demanded Miles indignantly.
" He has been behaving badly. I need not tell
you in what way. The example of Mrs. Frint has
spoiled the boy. I did my best for him, but it has
proved to be useless. I wash my hands of Jum.
He can now return to his original name of Frederick
Marr and go back to his street -life in London."
" Oh, uncle, how can you talk in that way ?
Think of how Jum saved my life."
" Well, Melicent, shortly you will be your own
mistress, and then you can call back both these
servants whom I have discharged. I think j^ou will
be acting very wrongl3^ as neither of them is to be
" I should trust Mrs. Frint and Jiun anywhere,"
said Melicent firmly. " And I shall certainly ask
them to return when you go. Uncle Ralph, But I
am thinking of poor Jum in the meantime, alone in
" Oh, he'll go to Mrs. Frint, his aunt," observed
" Aunt ! " Melicent looked amazed. " Do 3'ou
mean to say that Jum is Mrs. Frint 's nephew ? "
" Yes ; he told me so. Did ^^ou know, Mr.
Hurst ? "
Darch asked this question as he saw that the big
man — as he thought — was plainly taken aback by
surprise. Evidently neither Mrs. Frint nor Jum
had revealed their relationship to him. Then all at
once Miles began to laugh as he remembered that
Hurst did know. Jum had confessed as much.
A SURPRISE. 239
Ralph pounced on him. " Why do you laugh ? " he
asked softly, b\it with an evil glance.
" I was thinking that you did not know about the
relationship, but I remember Jum told me you did
" Yes, I knew, and so did my brother. But for
the relationship we should not have allowed that
little street arab to stay here. As it is, he has proved
very ungrateful, just like his aunt. It's in the
family, I suppose. By the way, has Print written
to you, Melicent ? "
" No ; I have had no word. Do you know where
she is, Uncle Ralph ? "
" In London somewhere. She will write for her
boxes when she is settled, no doubt. But all this,"
Hurst looked blandly round the table, " must be
very dull conversation for our visitors. And as the
dinner is ended, I propose that the ladies retire
to the drawing-room, where we will join them
The ladies did retire, Melicent rather indignantl}',
as she should have been permitted, as the hostess,
to give the signal. But on this evening her uncle
seemed to be bent upon exercising his authority even
in trifles. Also, with all his attempts to make him-
self agreeable, there was something sinister about
his behaviour. Lady Gibson broke down when they
reached the drawing-room, and Sylvia led her to the
sofa to comfort her.
" Don't, mother," she whispered ; " you have
borne up so W(;ll. Don't give way now, or he will
" I can't bear it any longer," wailed Lady Gibson,
sobbing. " I wish I was dead and buried."
" Does Uncle Ralph make you wish that ? " asked
Melicent curiously, for she hoped to force Lady
Gibson's confidence and get at the truth.
240 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Your uncle is a devil in man's shape," said the
" Mother ! mother ! " Sylvia tried to soothe her,
" That's dangerous."
" Not with me," said Melicent, who was rather
pale. " I don't love Uncle Ralph as I used to do,
and I think he's a bad man. Why do you marry
him instead of Toby ? And why do you let her,
Lady Gibson ? "
" Because I can't help it." Lady Gibson dried her
ej^es and became more composed. " I wish, with
all my heart, Sylvia could marry Dr. Smith,' much as
I used to dislike him. But he would be better than
your uncle. Oh, how terrible things are now ! "
" They will be all right soon," said Melicent con-
fidently. " The hand of Hecate has opened."
" Oh, that's rubbish," said Lady Gibson tartl3^
" And even if it is, how can it help us ?
" As Sylvia is going to marry Uncle Ralph, and he
is a Hurst, the statue must help her in some way,"
insisted Melicent, who was not to be argued out of
her favourite superstition. " We've had a lot of
bad luck, but now we shall have good luck."
Sylvia, looking as white and calm and lovely as
a marble statue, had said little, but she now glanced
towards her friend. " I believe you are right, my
dear. Good fortune will come to release me from
this hateful marriage. I don't believe that God will
permit this wicked man to triumph."
" Oh, Sylvia, don't talk like that," said Lady
Gibson, quite shocked and in a scared tone. " It
Sylvia relapsed into silence, and as the men entered
at the moment nothing more was said. For the
next hour Ralph took command of things as usual.
He made Sylvia play, which she did brilliantly,
but unemotionally, not venturing to object. He
A SURPRISE. 241
induced Melicent to sing, and got Dr. Smith to
recite, knowing that his rival had some small talent
in this way. Also Hurst sang himself in a big,
booming voice, which sounded like the bell of St.
Paul's. Only Lad}^ Gibson and Darch refused to
contribute to the entertainment, which, for want
of heart on the part of the performers, was extremely
miserable. But every one save Darch seemed to be
hypnotised by the immense energy and dominating
spirit of the host.
" Now we'll have some bridge," he bellowed, and
was altogether so noisy and aggressively merry that
all present wondered if he were mad.
Darch himself was puzzled. He could not under-
stand all this coarse humour, nor comprehend why
Hurst was behaving so. More than ever he felt sure
that behind all this horseplay there was something
terrible, which might reveal itself at any moment.
Meanwhile, the bridge-table was set out, and with
the others he sat down to play. He had Melicent
for a partner. Lady Gibson had Smith, while Ralph,
being left out for the time being, forced his odious
attentions on Sylvia. The whole situation was
uncomfortable, and seemed to be working up to
some climax. That came with the entrance of Jum.
" You ! " roared Hurst furiously, when he saw the
boy. " Why have you come ? "
" To bring this lady," said Jum in a loud, excited
voice, and pointed to the door.
Every one looked up and exclaimed. In the door-
wav stood Mam'zel Clarice
So startling and unexpected was the appearance
of Mam'zel Clarice that the bridge-players
rose hastily, and in doing so upset the table.
Sylvia remained seated where she was, but Hurst
had stood up when Jum entered, to turn the boy out
of the room. When the woman showed herself in
the doorway he was stricken into stone, and halted
with a cry. From being red his large face turned
pale, and then became a livid grey. If ever a man
was frightened out of his senses, Ralph was that
rhan. Darch looked at Mam'zel Clarice and then
at Hurst, finally at Jum, for an explanation.
" I found her and brought her here," said Jum
Darch had no time to ask where he had found the
woman, for at that moment Mam'zel Clarice, whose
eyes were wandering vaguely about the room,
caught sight of Melicent. With a wavering step
she advanced and laid an eager finger on the
" Go away from here," she said tremulously.
" There is danger — danger — danger."
" You came to my bedroom to say that," whis-
pered Melicent, terrified by the look of the poor
creature and the purport of her speech.
Mam'zel Clarice paid no attention to what was
JUM'S STORY. 243
said, but again let her eyes wander here and there.
When they rested on Ralph she started and shivered,
staring at him terrorstruck. On his part. Hurst
seemed to shrink and dwindle until he became quite
small and mean. But he said nothing, even when
Mam'zel Clarice pointed her finger at him.
" Danger," she said feebly. " Oh ! why did you
read the scroll ? " and taking a step forward she
suddenly gave a terrified scream, throwing her arms
hastily round Dr. Smith, who happened to be near
her. " Save me, save me, the scroll ! " Plainly she
was distracted, if not altogether mad, and seeing
this Ralph recovered his presence of mind.
" You murdered my brother," he cried, in a high,
quavering voice. -^
But she only shrank from him and clung the more
to Smith, who vainly tried to disengage himself from
her embrace. " Blood ! oh, blood ! " she moaned,
with her terrified eyes on Ralph. " Save me ! save
me ! " Then suddenly releasing the doctor she flung
her arms in the air. "The scroll. Why did you read
the scroll ?
" She is quite mad," said Hurst, becoming more
himself since no one could make anything of her
" So it seems," said Darch dryly. " Hadn't you
better look after her, Toby, as you arc a doctor ? "
Before Smith could speak Ralph stepped forward.
" I'll have her seen to," he said, and laid his hand
on the woman's shoulder.
As if an adder had stung her she leaped back and,
twisting her hands in her hair, which was streaming
down her back, she ran shrieking from the room.
" Follow her, foUow her," cried Hurst, rushing to
the door ; "we must learn how she murdered my
While Sylvia and Meliccnt ran to attend to Lady
244 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Gibson, who had fainted owing to the terror of the
scene, the men followed Ralph out of the room.
Jum, who evidently knew the direction Mam'zel
Clarice would take, led the way and sprang up the
stairs in pursuit. The woman sped along rapidly,
with her hair streaming and her white dressing-
gown fluttering. Up the stairs, along the passage,
she flew, then climbed another flight, and ran along
another passage to disappear into a room in the
front of the house. Ralph, who was following Jum,
and leading Smith and the barrister, gave a gasp of
" Mrs. Print's room," he said, and redoubled his
The three entered the room, Jum having arrived
before them, to find Mam'zel Clarice rolling on the
bed with the clothes over her head. There was not
the least doubt but what she was crazy, for when the
boy pulled down the bed-quilt, she uttered loud cries
of terror. Smith saw at a glance, from his medical
knowledge, what was to be done, and turned to
" You and Miles go downstairs," he said roughly.
" You can't do any good here. Send up Melicent
and two of the maidservants. I'll keep Jum here
and scribble a note which he can take to my place.
There are certain drugs I require to calm her and
send her to sleep. Quick ! quick ! There's no time
to be lost."
"But I want to know," began Hurst nervously,
only to be cut short by the young doctor, who was
quite master of the situation.
" You'll know soon enough. Do what I tell 3'ou,
or I won't be answerable for the consequences."
" One word only, doctor. Is she mad ? "
" Quite mad," said Smith ; " there, that's enough.
JUM'S STORY. 245
Darch and his host went rapidly down again, and
Hurst sent for the two servants who were required.
They came hastily, and he told them to go up to
Mrs. Print's room at the top of the house. Puzzled
to know why they should, the girls went willingly
enough, as much out of curiosity as obedience, for
the cries of Mam'zel Clarice had been heard in the
kitchen. Just as they disappeared up the stairs
Jum came tearing down with a loose sheet of paper
in his hand. Darch laid hold of him as he fled
" Give that to one of the grooms," he said sharpl}'.
" He can take it over."
" The doctor said I was to go. It's to get medi-
cine," panted the boy, struggling to get free.
" I know. Hurst, get a groom to take it." He
plucked the paper from Jum's fingers and passed it
to Ralph. " ril send up Melicent, and take Jum
to the library. We must have a thorough explana-
tion of this."
Jum yielded sullenly, overwhelmed by Darch's
tone of autliority, and Hurst, obedient also for once
in his life, went to give the necessary orders. Miles
took Jum by the arm and dragged him into the
drawing-room, as he wished to see Melicent without
losing sight of the boy. Ladj- Gibson had revived,
and was sitting up in her daughter's arms, while
Melicent stood beside her holding a smelling-bottle.
" What has happened ? oh, what has happened ? "
cried Lady Gibson when Darch and the boy appeared.
" Wliere is that dreadful creature ? "
" Upstairs in Mrs. Print's room," said the young
man abruptly. " Melicent, go up there and put
yourself under the doctor's orders. And keep the
maidservants who are there from making trouble
We want this business kept as quiet as possible for
246 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" We'll be all murdered in our beds/' wailed Lady
Gibson, who was terrified and unstrung.
"It's all right," said Darch soothingi3^ "The
poor creature is being looked after, and Smith will
give her something to make her sleep. Do go,
Melicent. Why are you waiting ? "
" Lady Gibson," faltered the girl.
" Sylvia can do what is wanted. Go," said Darch,
and said it so sharply that Melicent dropped the
smelling-bottle and fled without a word.
" rn attend to my mother," said Sylvia, who was
quite composed. " Mother, let me put you to bed.
There is quite enough trouble without your making
anymore. Come to bed."
" But I want to know where that dreadful woman
came from ? "
" That is what Jum is going to tell me," said
Darch firmly, and led the boy out of the room, while
Lady Gibson wailed and protested and fought against
Sylvia's entreaties that she should retire to rest.
When Darch and Jum entered the library Ralph
was already there. By a great effort of will, he had
regained command over his nerves but was evidently
considerably shaken by the late scene. He was
seated in a chair wiping the perspiration from his
white face when the barrister entered with his cap-
tive, and jumped up in terror when he saw them.
Miles quite expected this exhibition of fear, and
smiled sarcasticahy as he closed the door. Jum
kept close to his side and well out of Ralph's reach.
He still remembered his thrashing, and was not going
to risk another.
" It's all right. Hurst," said the lawyer, " there is
no occasion for you to be afraid — as yet," and he
laid emphasis on the last two words.
" There's no occasion for me to be afraid at all,"
said Hurst, with an air of bravado, and again wiping
JUM'S STORY. 247
his face as he resumed his seat. " I don't know
what j'ou mean."
" I mean that Mam'zel Clarice seemed to be afraid
of 3' oil."
" She has every reason to be. I'll have her hanged
for the murder of my brother, as sure as my name is
" I don't think the poor wretch is in a fit state
either to be hanged or even tried for her life. She
is mad. Any one can see that."
" She has lost her memory," said Jum unex-
pectedly, and with his eyes fixed on Hurst's pale face.
" Has she forgotten that she stabbed my brother ?"
asked the man ironically.
" She's forgotten everything," retorted the bo}'
positively. " All she keeps on saying is about
danger and Miss Melicent leaving the place, and also
talks about some scroll she says you read and
shouldn't have read."
" MTiat scroll ? "
" I don't know," replied Jum indifferent I3-.
" That's what she says."
" Then she's mad. I don't know of any scroll,
and I don't know either why she should advise my
niece to leave the Hall."
" She says there is danger."
" And so there is while she is here — a criminal —
" We don't know that yet," put in Miles smoothly,
" She has made no confession as yet. And she isn't
in a state to make any."
" I don't think a confession is needed," answered
Hurst vigorously. " The verdict of the jury, given
on all available evidence, is sufficient to hang her."
" Not without a trial, Mr. Hurst ; and she isn't
in a state to stand her trial."
" Let us hope that Smith will patch her up to
348 THE BLACK IMAGE.
stand in the dock," said Ralph fiercely. " I want
to get at the truth of this matter."
" So do we ah," rejoined Darch coolly ; " and
first let us learn how Jum came across the woman."
" I'll tell everything if Mr. Hurst will be friends
with me," said the boy, and to the amazement of
the two men, burst into tears.
Ralph grew more composed ^^'hen he saw this.
"You don't deserve to have me for your friend,
Jum," he said gravely. " You have behaved very
badly. I was sorry to thrash you and dismiss you,
but you must admit that you deserved to be
" Yes, I did. Iwas saucy because you sent away
aunt. You've been very kind to me, sir, and as
I've tried to make amends by bringing Mam'zel
Clarice to you, I'll be thankful if you'll forgive me."
He moved towards Ralph and fell on his knees. " Do
forgive me," he pleaded.
Hurst laid his hand on the boy's head. " Freely.
I am not one to bear malice. You have done wrong,
but you have been punished."
" And by bringing Mam'zel Clarice here you have
made amends, as you say," said Darch, secretly
amazed by the boy's submission and wondering what
it all meant. " Tell us how 3^ou found her, Jum."
" Mr. Hurst has forgiven me, hasn't he ? " in-
quired Jum, timidly rising from his knees. " I'll
tell everything if he has."
" You have my forgiveness," said Hurst grandly.
" Now tell. Where has this M'oman been hidden all
this time ? "
" In my aunt's room."
"Oh ! " Ralph stared and frowned. " Then that
was why Mrs. Frint changed her room so unex-
pectedly ? "
" Yes ; aunt was afraid you would find Mam'i«^
JUM'S STORY. 249
Clarice if she remained in her old room, so went up
to the garrets, as no one would think of looking in
" Then she didn't change her room to get away
from the sight of the statue ? "
" No, sir ; that was an excuse."
" But where did Mrs. Print find Mam'zel Clarice ? "
asked Darch impatiently.
" I don't know, sir. She wouldn't tell me. I
only learned that Mam'zel Clarice was in the house
when my aunt changed her room. She wouldn't let
any of the servants help her to change but me, and
hid Mam'zel in a secrer cupboard while we took the
things upstairs. But I found out, as I was watching
my aunt's doings and wondering what she was up
to. She made me promise to hold my tongue."
" You shouldn't have done that," said Hurst
angrily. " It was your duty to tell the truth at all
costs. You should have come to me."
" Aunt said I wasn't to," said Jum, dogged!}'.
" She didn't believe that Mam'zel was guilty."
" On what grounds ? " asked Hurst hurriedly.
" Aunt didn't say. But she made me promise to
hold my tongue, and no one thought that Mam'iel
Clarice was up in the garrets. Aunt took her up
food every night and nursed her. She was quite
quiet, and only talked nonsense like she talked
" Doesn't she remember anything ? "
" No," said Jum positively, " she goes on talking
about danger to Miss Melicent, and the scroll, again
and again. I never heard her say anything else."
Hurst and Darch looked at one another, plainly
unable to make anything of the boy's story, although
it was told reasonably enough. Before they could
compose their minds to ask further questions the
doctor entered the room with a satisfied air, and s^t
250 THE BLACK IMAGE.
down to roll a cigarette. Miles asked him how his
patient was doing.
" I've got her to go to sleep by giving her a
dose of morphia," said Toby soberly. " She's not
responsible for her actions."
" After her sleep, won't she be able to speak
sensibly?" asked Hurst.
" I don't think so. It's my opinion," went on the
doctor, striking a match in a leisurely way, " that
she has been struck a heavy blow on her head which
has disordered her brain."
" Who could have done that ? "
" Your brother, I suppose," Smith blew a cloud
of smoke, " during the struggle when he was killed.
He defended himself in some way. How did she
manage to hide ? " Toby looked at the three
Darch hastily explained what Jum had said.
" We're as far off knowing the truth as ever," said
Miles disconsolately. " Jum only knows what Mrs.
Print chose to tell him."
" Only that," said Jum, bending his head ; " and
it was because Mr. Hurst sent away aunt, who was
attending to Mam'zel, that I gave him sauce and
got beaten. I have had to look after her myself
during the last few days, and got tired of doing so.
For that reason I brought her downstairs."
" I suppose she really did go to Miss Melicent's
bedroom one night ? " asked Darch curiously.
" Yes. Mrs. Frint — my aunt, sir — was in a rare
fright over that. But Mam'zel got away while aunt
was sleeping, though how she found Miss Melicent's
bedroom aunt didn't know."
"She didn't enter by the door?" said Hurst
" No, sir," answered Jum promptly. " Aunt
showed Mam'zel several secret ways of getting froni
JUM'S STORY. 251
one room to another, so that she could escape if
anything came to hght about her being in the house.
There is a secret entrance into Miss MeHcent's
" Why didn't you say this at the time ? " asked
" Aunt told me not to, sir. And when you had
the house searched, aunt hid Mam'zcl in another
secret place — I don't know where."
" It seems to me that Mrs. Frint is the person to
examine," said Darch after a pause, during which
he turned over matters in his mind. " You said,
]\Ii-. Hurst, that she knew the Hall as well as you
and better, which' seems to be the case, since you did
not know where Mam'zel was hidden when Jupp
searched the house. But Mrs. Frint knows more
than that ; she knows if Mam'zcl murdered the
■' If," repeated Hurst angrily, " there's no ' if '
al^out it, Darch. Of course she murdered the
" Or aunt did," said Jum quickly.
They stared at him. " What makes you say
that ? " asked Smith quickly also.
" Well, I only think she might have. Aunt had
,a temper, sir. She might have come upon Mam'zel
and the Squire and have lost it."
" Pooh ! pooh ! " said Hurst indulgently ; " there
was no reason for Frint to murder my brother. He
was her best friend. You are talking rubbish."
" Perhaps I am, sir," said the boy meekly. " But
we'll know the truth when Mam'zel gets her senses
" If she ever does," said Toby with a shrug.
" Do you think she will, doctor ? " inquired Ralph
" It doesn't look like it at present," was the reply.
25« THE BLACK IMAGE.
" But, ill any case, failing Mam'zel, why not question
Mrs. Frint ? "
" I don't know where she is," said Ralph, biting
his nails and looking worried. " I was too hasty hi
sending her away. She hasn't written to me since
she went to London."
I' Did she go there ? " asked Darch meaningly.
" She said she was going, and would let me know
where to send her boxes to as soon as she was settled.
I dropped her at the Brant station and drove away,
so I don't know what ticket she took."
" Well, Mrs. Frint must be found," said the
The big man nodded his assent. " L'll put an
advertisement in the London papers, unless she has
gone to that Camden Town address where your
mother lived, Jum."
'' I could go up and see, sir," said Jum brightly.
" Failing the ad\-ertisement, 3^ou may as well try.
ril write out the advertisement and send it up to
several morning and evening newspapers. And now
we have settled things I suggest that you two should
"I stay here to look after Mam'zel Clarice," said
Toby promptly. " Melicent is watching her just
now, and I can't have her kept up all night. You
go home. Miles."
" Well, I'm not much use here," said Miles, rising
reluctantly; "but what about informing Inspector
"He mustn't see Mam'zel," said Toby quickly,
" for the sight of his uniform would meike her violent
again. Better wait for a few days."
Hurst nodded, well content that this should be
so. " Only the servants will talk," he said with
"Well, then, tell Jupp, but keep him out of the
jUM'S STORY. 255
sick-room/' was Smith's testy reply. " I'm not
going to risk his seeing Mam'zel. She may get her
senses back, or she may not. In any case, the sight
of Jupp won't do her any good."
" \\^at about Lady Gibson and Sylvia ? "
" They have gone to bed, and I've given Lady
Gibson a sleeping draught. We have done all we
can do this evening, Miles, so you had better go
" And can I stay here, sir ? " asked Jum, looking
timidly at his master.
" Yes, my boy. We'll say no more about your
bad behaviour. You have made amends ; 3^ou have
made amends. But you must not accuse your aunt
" It's only an idea," said Jum, hanging his head.
" Better keep the idea to yourself then. Good
night, Miles. Come over to-morrow and we'll see
what else transpires."
Miles went away with Smith, lea\ing Hurst and
the boy together. At the front door, while Darcli
was putting on his overcoat, he asked Smith a ques-
tion : " What do you think of Jum ? "
" Seems all right," said Toby laconically ; but
Miles shook his head. He had his doubts of Jum.
There was something behind the boy's extraordinary
LADY GIBSO-X'S STORY.
HEN Darch awoke next morning lie lay
thinking for some time over the extra-
ordinary events of the previous night. It
w'ds astonishing that Mam'zel Clarice should have
been hidden in the house all these months, while
she was being sought for far and wide ; it was
astonishing that she should have been discovered
and brought back by Jum. But to Darch* s mind
the most astonishing thing of all was the boy's
behaviour towards Hurst. Jum had a great sense
of his o\Mi dignit}^ and it was unlikel}^ that he Avould
forgive a thrashing, however well deserved. Cer-
tainly he had a sense of gratitude, so far as Ralph
was concerned, and had usually hesitated about
saj^ing things against his benefactor. But Miles
remembered that when the boy had come to see him
last, he had distinctly left the impression that he
intended to revenge his aunt's unjust dismissal.
Yet here he was bowing down before the man who
had dismissed her, and asking for his forgiveness.
There was no doubt in Darch's mind that Jum
was playing a game of some sort, and while the
young man was dressing he wondered vainly what
the game might be. Had the boy brought down
the woman to accuse Hurst of being implicated in
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 255
the crime ? If so, he had failed in his object, owing
to Mam'zel's loss of memory. But then Jum knew
previously that her memory was lost, so he could not
have introduced the accused woman to get Hurst
into trouble. Then, again, Jum hinted that his aunt
might have struck the blow, and knowing how deeply
thankful Jum was to his aunt. Miles was puzzled to
know why the boy should blacken her character. It
was all very difficult to understand, and when break-
fast was over the barrister walked to the Hall to
learn all he could. His first interview, he decided,
was to be with Jum.
Strangely enough, he met the boy at the gates of
the park, and still more strangely, the boy ran to
meet him. Darch was immediately on his guard, for
he did not know what scheme the lad had in his head.
For this reason he did not utter a word, while Jum
hastily explained himself.
" I was coming to see you, sir," said Jum, volubly
and earnestly, "for you must have thought I talked
queerly in the library last night. I just want to say
that you must trust me."
Darch was surprised into speech by the word.
" Why ? "
" Because I know much more than I said, sir,
only I can't speak without any proofs."
'' Proofs of what ? "
" Of all these queer things that have happened
since the statue closed its hand," said Jum pointedly.
" I know you think that I'm blowing hot and cold,
Mr. Darch, first going against Mr. Hurst and then
making it up with him. Also in speaking against
my aunt as I did. But I have a reason."
" What is it ? I want you to trust me, Jum."
" I can't, sir." The boy drew back, looking
obstinate. " If I told you wliat I know, and what
I_^Liess, you'd only laugh at me, for I haven't any
256 THE BLACK IMAGE.
proof that my ideas are correct. Only trust me,
sir. You have been kind to me, so has Miss Melicent,
and my aunt also. I wish to serve you all three."
" Mr. Hurst has also been kind to you, Jum."
" Oh, him," the boy made a gesture of contempt.
" He has his reasons for that, Mr. Darch. But tell
me, will you trust me ? "
" Yes," said Miles, after a steady look at the open
face of the boy.
" And if you don't see me for ever so long, you'll
trust me ? "
" Yes," said Darch again, quite puzzled ; " but I
don't understand "
" You will some day, sir, when I make a clean
breast of it. Please don't ask me any questioni
now. But I'll tell you one thing, sir. Inspector
Jupp's at the Hall."
Darch uttered an exclamation of surprise. " Who
sent for him ? "
"No one, sir. But the news that Mam'zel Clarice
had been found got from the servants to the village,
in spite of Mr. Ralph's telling them to hold their
tongues. And from the village the news got to
Serbery. It's only ten o'clock now, sir, but In-
spector Jupp arrived a quarter of an hour ago."
Miles would have asked further questions, but
that Jum ran away at the top of his speed, passing
along the riverside road in the direction of Brant.
Remembering that Hurst had driven Mrs. Frint to
Brant, the young man wondered if she had remained
there instead of going to town. Wondered also if
Jum was going to bring her dramatically to the Hall,
as he had brought Mam'zel Clarice. This last inter-
view with the boy deepened the mystery of his
proceedings rather than explained them, and,
sorely puzzled. Miles took his way up to the Hall.
Here he found Jupp in the library, listening tp
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 257
the explanation of Hurst and the statements of
Toby, who had been with Mam'zel all night. The
Inspector looked cross and his face was lowering,
for he was annoyed to think that he had searched
the Hall in vain. As a matter of fact, he seemed
inclined to blame Hurst for his failure.
'' You know everything that is to be known about
this place," said Jupp in sharp tones, " so you must
have guessed where this woman was concealed."
" I guessed nothing of the sort," said Hurst furi-
ously. " How dare you insinuate such a thing.
This old house is full of queer nooks and corners, and
although both I and my brother knew many of them,
Mrs. Print knew more. For some reason, best
known to herself, she aided this woman to escape
after the murder, and changed her room so that she
could conceal her better."
" Then I must examine Mrs. Print," said the
Inspector, more exasperated than ever. " You say
you dismissed her."
" Yes ; it's no use my explaining all that again. I
have sent up an advertisement to half a dozen
London papers in the hope that she will reappear to
" She won't reappear if she is in league with
Mam'zel over the murder. I am sure of that. I
wish you hadn't dismissed her."
" I wish I hadn't," retorted Ralph ; " but how
was I to know that she was behaving in this way ?
She had to be dismissed, as she was highly imper-
tinent to me. A most forward and pushing woman."
" Well, I'll wire to Scotland Yard and put the
police on to her. But what about "this woman
upstairs ? "
" She is asleep," said Smith promptly, " and has
been asleep all the night and up to the present.
Don't waken her."
258 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Wliy not ? I wish to arrest her."
" She's quite mad, and is not fit to be arrested."
" Mad or not, I'm going to remove her," said Jupp
" Of course you can do what you hke about that,"
rephed the doctor coolly ; " but I warn you that if
she is wakened now and arrested, her reason will be
gone once and for all."
" And if she is left alone ? "
" She may awaken with her senses more or less
restored," said Toby calmly positive. " Of course,
it is difficult for me to diagnose the case. But I
think that a long sleep will put her comparatively
right. She is suffering from a blow on the back of
" The Squire gave her that, I suppose," said Darch,
who was listening intently. " At least, I presume he
defended himself in some wa}^"
" We'll never learn the truth until the woman
speaks," said Hurst impatiently, " and I agree with
the doctor that she should be allowed to sleep, so
that there may be a chance of her recovering her
senses. Still, it is for Jupp to say what is to be
" Are you sure it is dangerous for her to be
moved ? " the Inspector turned towards the young
" I would stake my professional reputation that
it is. You can have another opinion if you like."
" No," said Jupp, rising with a satisfied look. " I'll
take your word, doctor, since you seem to be so
positive. But I'll leave some of my men here to see
that she doesn't escape. Mrs. Print," added the
Inspector, with a grim smile, " might return."
" I wish she would return, with all my heart,"
said Hurst heavily. " I want to get at the truth of
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. -l ^259
" So do I," Jupp assured him. " Well, I'll leave
my men in charge and go back to Serbery to com-
municate with the London police. Where's that
boy who got hold of the woman ? "
" Somewhere about ; I don't know," said Hurst,
" Then he must be got hold of in his turn. I
believe, from what you gentlemen say, that he know s
more than he admits. "
After his late interview with Jum, Miles was quite
sure that the boy did, and, moreover, he could have
told Jupp in which direction the boy had gone. But
this he did not do, as he wished Jum to be un-
hampered in his plans — whatever these might be —
by the interference of the police. So Jupp went
away to find the boy and travel to Serbery.
He failed to come across the lad, so was obliged to
attend to his other business first before seeking
particularly. There was no time to be lost in
notifying the London police that Mrs. Frint was
Meanwhile, Smith informed Miles that Lady Gibson
wished to see him. " She is worried about some-
thing," said Toby, " and wishes to consult you.
Come up to her room."
" I forbid you to go," said Ralph, starting up with
an angry look. " If Lady Gibson wishes to consult
any one, she can consult me, since I am to be her
^\'hile Ralph was speaking, Sylvia entered the
room, looking more beautiful than ever in a plain
morning dress of white linen. She had overheard
the speech of Hurst, and it was she who answered it.
" You can come up also," she said with cold
composure. " My mother intends to ask Miles's
" I forbid her to do so."
26o THE BLACK IMAGE.
" My mother is past your forbidding her to do
anything, Mr. Hurst. You have driven her into
a corner, and now she will fight. She is up and
dressed in the sitting-room adjoining her bedroom,
and will see you both."
" I'll stop her mouth," muttered Hurst furiously,
and rushed out of the room, immediately followed
by Darch, who did not intend to lose the oppor-
tunity of learning Lady Gibson's secret.
" Is 3"our mother going to throw Hurst o\-er ? "
asked Toby bluntly.
" She would if she could, but she is not able," said
Sylvia sadly. " No, don't ask me to explain, but
wait until Miles returns to tell you everything. In
the meantime, let us go to Mam'zel's room. I want
to relieve Melicent, who has been watching her since
seven. She must be tired."
" Can you trust your mother alone with Hurst ? "
asked Toby doubtfull}'. " She is hysterical, 3''ou
know, and "
" She won't be hysterical when Miles is there to
support her," interrupted Sylvia. " Toby," she
spoke vehemently, " I do hope that something will
happen to prevent my marriage v/ith Mr. Hurst."
" And forward your marriage M-ith me ? " said
" Yes," Sylvia cried ; " you know how I love you
and hate him."
" If 3''ou would explain "
" I can't ; I can't. Wait until you see Miles
again," and to prevent further questioning, Sylvia
fled out of the library and up the stairs to relieve
the vigil of Melicent. Toby, looking sorely puzzled,
followed slowly. He was quite unable to under-
stand what she meant.
Meanwhile, Darch and Hurst were in the sitting-
room adjoining Lady Gibson's bedroom and, sitting
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. j6i
in a deep arm-chair, its occupant was grimly, vvitii
a rigid, white face, defj'ing Hurst. Lady Gibson
had dispensed with rouge ; her hair was twisted in a
simple knot at the back of her head, and she wore a
plain grey dressing-gown, without adornments of
any kind. Seen thus she looked an old, worn-out
woman, but in spite of her age and terror she was
determined to make a confidant of Darch, whom she
had always respected and liked.
" It's no use your going on at me, Ralph," she
said firmly. " I can't stand your tyranny any
longer. I'm going to speak out."
" Your speaking out won't prevent my marriage
with Syhaa," he sneered, in a sullen manner,
and furious to think that she was rebelling against
" I hope it will, Ralph. \\'hen Miles knows all,
he may find a way out of the wicked business. I
would rather that Sylvia married Dr. Smith, poor
as he is, than a de\il such as you are."
" Hear her ! " cried Hurst, turning towards Miles
and sneering derisivel3^ " She has known me all
my life, yet she speaks of me in that way."
"It is because I have known you all my life that
I do call you by the onl}' name you deserve," said
the woman bitterly. " You forget that I knew you
when we were both young and was well aware of
your profligate ways."
" I reformed," said Ralph sulkily, and sat down,
making no further attempt to prevent her from
speaking the truth.
" Yes ; because you had no money, and Edgar
would only keep you here on condition that you did
reform. He dismissed John Frint and made you
" And a very good bailiff I was."
" Because you had to be. I remember you talked
262 THE BLACK IMAGE.
about the serpent being kept straight while in the
bamboo. No one but Edgar and I knew how truly
you spoke. You were ahvays a bad man."
" Well, well, get on with your confession," said
Hurst impatiently. " No one here can say a word
about my character, so no one will bother about
what you will say. I don't care."
" I think 3^ou will before I have done," said Lady
Gibson swiftly. "As to my confession, as you call
it, that will take but a few minutes. Miles," she
made a great effort to screw up her courage, " before
I married Sir Guy Gibson I had a husband."
" Who was an anarchist," supplemented Ralph
" Yes, Louis Durand was an anarchist," said Lady
Gibson quietly, while Darch looked amazed at the
information she had given. " When I was a young
girl in Paris, I met him in good society. He was
handsome and romantic, so I ran away with him.
I learned, when too late, that he manufactured
bombs, and was implicated in plots against the
Government. He was a gentleman, certainly, but
a fanatic, and as bad a man as Ralph there."
" Well," said Miles, while Hurst chuckled and
sneered, " why should you be afraid of this being
known ? "
" For Sylvia's sake," said Lady Gibson in a whisper,
and Hurst chuckled again in a most hateful manner.
" Louis, while making a bomb, was blown up, at least
I was told so. I therefore returned to my people,
^vho forgave me for marrying him and induced me
to become the wife of Sir Guy."
" Well," said Darch again, and wondering, " this
also is no great secret to make you sacrifice Sylvia
to this scoundrel."
" Gently, Miles, gently," said Hurst, looking up
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 263
" A man is a scoundrel who behaves to a woman
as you have done, Hurst. And I'll thank you not
to call me ' Miles.' "
" Don't quarrel, but let me tell you everything,"
implored Lady Gibson hysterically, "for I feel that
I can't stand much more trouble. After I married
Sir Guy, and Sylvia was born, my first husband
" Oh ! " Darch was taken aback, and Hurst
" He had not been killed," explained the poor
woman hurriedly, " but only injured, and when he
got better he came to find me. I was married, so
he told my husband everything. But heaven was
my friend," she added, sobbing, " for soon after
Louis put in an appearance, he was i"un over by
a lorry and killed. Guy behaved to me like the good,
kind man he was, and we were quietly married
" But the marriage didn't make Sylvia legiti-
mate," scoffed Hurst, who was enjoying the shame
of the poor woman.
" Hold your tongue," said Darch, turning on him
roughly, " or I'll twist your neck, you scoundrel."
" It would take a better man than you to do that,"
taunted Hurst ; " but I can afford to hold my tongue,
as Sylvia can only refuse to marry me at the cost
of the truth being told."
" You swine ! " Miles almost struck him, and
would have done so had not Lady Gibson caught his
" Wait ! wait ! " she implored. " I can punish
him in another wa}'."
" Punish me — punish me ! " shouted Ralph con-
" Yes," she said straightly. " Miles, this brute
learned the truth from an anarchist called Strumai
364 THE BLACK IMAGE.
He's an old man now, but he was young when I
married Louis. Ralph knew something of my secret,
and sought out this man, who is in London. From
him he learned the truth, and after Edgar's death
he said he would publish the fact that Sylvia was
illegitimate if I didn't allow her to marry him. I
told Sylvia, and she consented, both for my sake and
for her own. Now 3'ou know the worst," and she
broke down, sobbing.
" And how are j^ou going to remedy the worst ? "
asked Ralph, with a shrug of his huge shoulders.
He felt quite capable of holding his own.
It was Lady Gibson who answered, not Darch.
Just as he opened his mouth to reply she sprang
to her feet with clenched hands and a furious
" By exposing you, Ralph ! B}^ exposing
you ! "
" Dear me," he sneered ; " and in what way ? "
" You got a bomb from Struma. He makes them,
and very dangerous and deadly bombs they are. I
went to see him, after you threatened me, to ask why
he had betrayed me to you. He never intended to
do so, and wept when I told him what you had done.
If he was a younger man and in better health Struma
would have killed you for making use of the infor-
mation he gave you as you have done. Struma
would not have given you the bomb but that you
paid him a large sum of money which, in his poverty,
he could not refuse."
" Such rubbish ! " said Ralph, who was begin-
ning to look uneasy. " Why should I buy a
bomb ? "
" Why should you plot your niece's death ? "
retorted Lady Gibson.
" It's a lie ! " Hurst turned pale and advanced
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 265
Darch, with a single leap, placed himself between
the two. " Stop where you are, Hurst, or I'll "
"Fight me, "raged Ralph furiously; "comeonthen."
" No ; I'll call up one of the policemen and give
you in charge."
" For what ? " Hurst recoiled, and his face
quivered in spite of all his efforts to maintain his
" On the charge of plotting against Melicent," said
Darch CO0II3'. " I suspected as much before. Lady
Gibson confirms my suspicions."
" She can't prove them," said Ralph sullenly.
" I can't, as you say," she said, sitting down again
and passing her tongue over her dry lips ; " but I
am sure you wish to get Melicent out of the way in
order to get the money. You told me that you
would have plenty of money soon, when you married
" But I didn't say that I'd get it by killing
" No ; you are too clever to give yourself away,"
?!aid Lady Gibson passionately ; " but when I heard
of those so-called accidents I suspected the worst.
You planned to get her to fall down the stairs ; you
planned to get her killed b}^ the falling elm-bough —
I am sure of it."
" Prove what you sa^'," sneered Ralph, recover-
ing his bravado.
" I can't ; but I'm sure you intended her death.
And the bomb — why did you buy the bomb, unless
it was to use it when all else failed ? "
" I didn't buy any bomb, you silly woman," said
Ralph, now quite composed, " and as you have told
your secret, perhaps Darch here will see that he can't
prevent me from marrying Sylvia."
" We'll see about that," said Miles coolly ; " you
are not so safe as you think you are, Hurst. W"h»o
266 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Mam'zel Clarice recovers her reason she may make
statements which won't be to your credit."
" Print, also, I suppose, when she is found," said
Hurst, equally coolly.
" Yes ; things are dark now, but when the light
" Ah ! when the light comes," Ralph swaggered
towards the door ; " but the light will never come.
I'm too smart for any of you to catch me. You can
come down, Mr. Darch, and tell everything that
Lady Gibson has told you. It won't make the least
difference to me," and with a loud, coarse laugh he
went out of the room, banging the door with a crash.
Miles, wishing he could thrash the ruffian, turned
to Lady Gibson, only to find that she had fainted.
In a moment he was out of the room also, calling
on Sylvia. When he got to the hall, Melicent
appeared with Jum, to whom she had been talking
in the library.
" Sylvia's watching Mam'zel," she said hurriedly.
" What is it ? oh, what is it ? "
" Only that Lady Gibson has fainted," said Miles
soothingly. " Go up and look after her. When she
comes to herself, tell her that it is all right, and that
I'll come and see her again this evening. Jum,
come with me."
Melicent, not staying to question him, ran up the
stairs, and Darch, along with the boy, walked
towards the front door. There they were stopped
by a policeman.
" You can go, sir," he said, with great civility ;
" but the boy must stay."
" Why ? " asked Miles angrily, for his nerves were
none of the best.
" Inspector's orders, sir. He wants the boy kept
here until his return."
"Very good." Miles turned to the boy. "I'll
LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 267
see you when I come this evening, Jum. Remember,
I trust you."
" Yes, sir," said Jum brightly ; " you'll find I am
to be trusted."
Relieved in his mind by the boy's signihcant tone,
Darch walked home to his own place. He wanted
to be alone to think matters over, for what with one
thing and another, his brain was in a perfect whirl.
That Ralph was a blackguard, who would stop at
nothing to obtain his ends, was vcry'plain after Lady
Gibson's confession. But Darch did not see how
to circumvent him in any way. He held the whip
hand so far as S\dvia and her mother were concerned,
and nothing could be done in that direction without
the poor girl suffering. And with regard to the
accidents, he was equally at a loss. There was
])Ositively no proof that Ralph had any hand in
them, and although Miles was as sure as Lady Gibson
that they had been arranged, yet it was impossible
to bring home the truth to Hurst. The whole
position was one of singular difficulty.
Darch wished that Toby would return so that he
could consult him, but the doctor was so anxious to
look after his patient that he remained at the Hall
during the afternoon. Finally Miles, realising that
thinking over matters led to nothing, determined,
after tea, to return to the Hall and talk things over
with ^lelicent . It was growing dark when he arrived,
and he was surprised to fmd the place in commotion.
Wondering what new trouble had occurred to cause
this sensation, Darch walked into the house, after
some expostulation with the policeman, who was
disinclined to let him pass.
" Inspector Jupp's here, sir, and he says that no
one is to go out or come in, sir," said the officer,
looking very important. " That woman's recovered
her senses, and he's with her."
26^ THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Mam'zel has recovered her "
Just as I\liles got thus far in his speech Mehcent
appeared with red eyes and disordered hair.
" I heard your voice, Miles," she sobbed, flying
into his arms. ^ " There's such trouble. Mam'zel has
recovered, and is speaking quite reasonably. She's
saying the most awful things about Uncle Ralph."
" And your uncle ? " Darch drew a long breath,
" He has disappeared, and Jum has disappeared
PART OF THE TRUTH.
DARCH found it impossible to soothe Melicent.
As the policeman on guard refused to let
him go further than the hall, he sent up a
message by one of the servants, who was summoned,
asking the Inspector if he could enter. Then he
drew the sobbing girl to a bench, as far away from
the constable as possible, and tried to calm her.
Heedless of the publicity, Melicent clung to her lover
and refused to be consoled. She was wholly un-
" I'm sure I ne\er liked Uncle Ralph after he tried
to force Sylvia into a marriage," she wept, " although
I don't know how he did it. But he can't be as bad
as that horrid woman says."
" What does she say ? "
" Oh, I can't tell you. I only heard a little, and
then rushed out of the room, scared to death. But
it's a shame saying things against Uncle Ralph when
he isn't here to defend himself."
" Where is he ? " asked Miles sharply.
" Oh, don't speak like that ! " cried Melicent, all
nerves and tears. " You make me jump. I can't
bear it. I don't know where he is. He went away,
and so did Jum, although Inspector Jupp wanted to
see them both."
2;o THE BLACK IMAGE.
Seeing that it was impossible to get a coherent
explanation from the crying girl, Darch beckoned to
the policeman. " What's this about Mr. Hurst and
the boy ? "he asked imperatively.
" They've gone, sir."
" \Miere ? "
" There's more than you wants to know that,
sir," said the officer grimly. "A lot of our men
are hunting for them. The Inspector wired for
them to Serbery as soon as Mr. Hurst and the boy
made themselves scarce."
" Why did they do that ? "
The policeman removed his helmet and scratched
his head. " Well, sir, I can't tell you that. All I
know is that when Mr. Hurst learned that the woman
upstairs was sensible and able to talk, he ran away.
\Vhether he took the boy, or whether the boy
followed him, I can't sa3^"
" But why did you let them go ? "
" We didn't know they intended to cut, sir. And
the queer thing is that none of us know how they got
away. They didn't get out of any of the doors here,
though, to be sure, they may have slipped out of
some window. Anyhow, they have disappeared for
the last three hours and can't be found."
" Where were they last seen ? "
" In the place they call the Sanctuarj', sir, and
I'm sure there ain't an^^ way out of that ! "
Miles started when the Sanctuary was mentioned,
remembering the legend of Amyas Hurst and the
way in which people had disappeared in his day. It
seemed as though history v/as repeating itself. He
wondered if there was any secret way in and out of
the place, and if the same had to do with the statue.
It seemed very probable. Darch was very troubled,
and did not know what to do. The policeman retired
to his post near the door again, and Melicent still
PART OF THE TRUTH. 2;t
sobbed bitterly. Miles endeavoured to get her to
explain what was being said about her uncle, but
she refused to enlighten him.
" It's too horrid, and I can't believe it," was all she
In answer to the message, Jupp himself appeared,
coming down the stairs, and he looked grave and
disturbed. In his hand he held several loose sheets
of paper, on which Miles guessed was written the
confession of Mam'zel Clarice. He rose and went
toward the Inspector, anxious to learn how the
woman had murdered the Squire, and why she had
done so, and how she had escaped.
" Can I be of any sen-ice ? " he asked Jupp as an
excuse for his coming.
" Yes ; I want you to come into the library and
hear what this woman has said," answered Jupp
promptly. " It's all set down here, signed by her,
and witnessed by myself and Dr. Smith. He is with
her still, as the excitement of telling her story has
made her bad again. Come into the library, Mr.
Darch, and you can come also, if vou like, I\Iiss
" No ! " Melicent sprang to her feet looking terri-
fied and tearful. " I can't bear it. I'm sure Uncle
Ralph is not so bad as that horrid woman makes him
out to be. I only heard a little, but that little was
" But, Melicent," expostulated Miles, distressed by
her grief, "it is just as well to know the worst. Be
brave and face the worst."
" I've heard the worst. Miles, and it's so dreadful
that I don't believe it at all." Melicent dried her
eyes and turned away towards the stairs, while the
Inspector looked at her pityingly. " I'll go to
Sylvia, and you can tell me everything later."
" Better let her go," said Jupp in an undertone.
272 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" I wish to have a quiet chat with you, Mr. Darch,
and her tears will only upset things. I don't wonder
she is crying, poor thing," ended the Inspector
regretfully. " It's a dreadful story, but whether
it's true or false I can't say."
Melicent mounted the stairs slowly, and did not
turn her head, even though Darch called out to her
to be calm. When she disappeared, he went with
the Inspector to the library and closed the door.
Man as he was, and accustomed to face trouble. Miles
felt little better than Melicent did. Things were so
strange and uncomfortable as it was, that he
dreaded to hear what the Inspector was about to
tell him. It seemed as if they could not be worse ;
yet if ^lelicent was to be believed the worst was
yet to come. However, for the girl's sake, they had
to be faced, so Darch sat down and braced himself
to hear the confession of Mam'zel Clarice.
" I can't say if it's true or false," said Jupp again,
as he spread the sheets on the table and flattened
them out. " I shan't read you this, Mr. Darch, but
will tell you the whole story in my own way. For
the last two hours I have been asking, questioning
the woman and setting down her answers. WTiat she
did explain is terrible, and I don't wonder the poor
girl ran away."
" Well, tell me the truth, and let me stand be-
tween Miss Hurst and this dreadful truth, whatever
it is," said Miles, with a twisted smile. " I am
engaged to her, you know, Mr. Inspector."
" Yes, I know, and I'm very glad that you have
the right to protect her. She has had much sorrow
as it is, poor thing, and she will have more."
" When ? " Darch started, so serious was the
"When we catch her uncle," repliedf Jupp
PART OF THE TRUTH. 273
" Tell me, in a word, what you mean. I can't
stand this suspense."
" In a word I mean ' murder/ and that explains
" Do you mean that Hurst has been murdered ? "
" No ; Hurst has disappeared because he is wanted
for murder, if what Mam'zel Clarice says here 15
true," and Jupp laid his hand on the sheets.
" Oh ! " Darch looked at the officer with a hor-
rified expression. " Do you mean to say that Hurst
is an accomplice of the woman and approved of the
murder of his brother ? "
" Oh, no ! " answered Jupp smoothly ; " I mean
that Hurst murdered his brother himself."
" Never ! " Darch stared at the speaker in-
" It's true — that is, if Mam'zel Clarice is to be
believed. I said that before and I say it again.
She tells a very plausible story, as you will hear, and
I should like to have your opinion on it."
" What is Miss Hurst's opinion ? "
" She didn't hear it all. She listened until the
woman accused her uncle of striking the blow, and
then ran out of the room, shrieking that it was false."
" And Smith, what does he say ? "
" He believes that Mam'zel Clarice is speaking the
truth. The question is, what will you say, Mr.
Darch ? "
" Let me hear the story," said the other, and
composed himself to hsten.
Jupp lost no time. He leaned back in his chair,
crossed his legs and placed his fmgers and thumbs
together, disregarding the written confession, and
telling the tale in his own way. " 1 must begin at
the beginning," he said, in a deliberate way, " Miss
Brown, usually called Mam'zel Clarice, is the
daughter of Septimus Brown, the late Squire's tutor,
274 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Soon after her father's death she went to live in Paris
with her French mother, and remained there for
many j'ears, receiving, it seems, help from the Squire,
\vho liked her as a child. WTien her mother died
some time ago, Mam'zel came over to England to
ask for assistance. She received it, for the Squire
procured her an appointment in the Serbery school
as the French governess."
" I know all this," siiid Darch, somewhat im-
patiently. " Go on."
" There's no huny," said Jupp, still deliberate in
his utterance and without changing his position.
" I wish 3'ou to understand everything clearly, and
so must explain fully. Miss Brown came over, not
so much to get assistance from the Squire, as to
marrj^ him if she could. It seems that, misled by
his affection for her as a child, she believed that he
really mteiided to marr}^ her when she grew up.
Her mother, it seems, fostered this idea, being a very
foolish woman, ^\^len Mam'zel Clarice came here,
Hurst fostered it also."
" But why ? " Darch looked amazed.
" For his own ends, as j^ou will hear. As you
know, Mam'zel, after waiting for a long time for the
Squire to propose, came to the Hall when she heard
that he was engaged to Miss Gibson. You know
what took place."
Miles nodded. " I was present. Mam'zel tried
to stab the Squire with a knife snatched from the
wall, and Hurst picked her up in his arms to carry
her out of the house."
" Precisely ; and the action of snatching the knife
from the wall gave to Hurst the idea of being able
to kill^his brother and lay the blame on the woman.
If you remember, Mr. Darch, the Squire was stabbed
with the same Afghan knife, taken from the same
trophy_^of arms over the fireplace."
PART OF THE TRUTH. 275
" Yes ! yes ! " i\Iiles leaned his elbows on the
table and listened with all his ears. " Go on, go
on. But why did Hurst wish to kill his brother ? "
he asked as an afterthought.
" He did not wish the Squire to marry Miss
(jibson. At least, that is the reason Mam'zel
Clarice assigns for the crime. But to continue :
Afterwards, Mr. Hurst went to Mam'zel Clarice
secretly b^' night and said that he wanted her to
marry his brother."
" But the Squire didn't," broke in Darch im-
patiently. " That's absurd."
" Wait, wait ! You will hear all in due time.
Can't you see that the man was deceiving the
woman for his own ends. His pretended desire
that she should marry the Squire was part of the
" I can't see it."
" You will if you will listen and not interrupt,"
snapped Jupp, rather irritably. " Hurst, according
to 5lam'zel, said that his brother refused to see her
again, but that if she did manage to see him, he
would probably yield to her solicitations. He there-
fore promised to get her into the house, secretly,
and arranged that she should get the key of the
" She did, and then it was taken from her again."
"Oh, no, it wasn't!" said Jupp triumphantly.
" Hurst told her that he had given the key to his
niece, who was going to visit you and the doctor,
along with Miss Gibson. So, as was arranged
between the two, Mam'zel watched for the return of
the lot of you. Wlien she saw the key put into the
door — and she could see it since an electric torch
was used to show where the keyhole was, she dropped
from the tree in which she was hidden and snatched
276 THE BLACK IMAGE.
"I know that. i*j.nd then Jum ran after her and
made her give it up."
" Oh, no ; she gave up a key— the wrong key,
and kept the real one."
" Oh ! " said Darch again, wondering at the clever-
ness of the scheme. ,
" Yes, it is clever," said Jupp, reading his thoughts.
" Hurst is very clever, but, as it seems, not quite
clever enough. However, you can see that with
the key Mam'zel was able to enter the house un-
known to any one. Then, to make things doubly
sure and provide an alibi. Hurst sent Lady Gibson
to the woman Vv'ith a bribe of one hundred pounds —
furnished by the Squire — ^to induce her to return
to Paris. You know that Mam'zel agreed to do so ;
that she sent her boxes to London and took her
departure to Brant on the motor-cycle given to her
by the Squire."
" Yes ; Jum saw her go towards Brant."
Jupp nodded. " The boy was set to watch her
by Hurst for that purpose — to allay suspicion, I
mean. Then Hurst went to London for the night,
having arranged what Mam'zel was to do."
" W'Tiat was she to do ? "
" Pretend to go to Brant and pull the wool
over Jum's eyes ; then return and place her
motor-cycle at the edge of the wood, outside the
" I remember that Walters and I found traces of
it there, owing to oil having been spilt."
" I believe that oil was spilt on purpose to impli-
cate the woman in the crime," said the Inspector
dryly, " and by Hurst himself."
" I see. He returned ? "
" Exactly ! he went up publicly by the Serbery
line and came down secretly by the Brant line.
Then he walked from Brant, found the motor-cycle
PART OF THE TRUTH. 277
on the verge of the wood, and knew thereby that
Mam'zel Clarice was in the house."
" She climbed over the Sanctuary wall ? " said
" Oh, no, she didn't," was Jupp's unexpected
reply. " She entered the house by the postern gate,
having slipped into the park up the avenue. Then
she stole to the study, locked the door and faced the
Squire, who was reading. By this time Hurst had
climbed the wall of the Sanctuary and was in the
room. He entered from the outside at the same
moment as she entered from the inside, and the
Squire, as you might put it, was between two fires."
' ' And what did he say ? ' '
" According to Mam'zel he didn't have time to
say anything. Just as he began to rage at her in-
trusion, Hurst snatched the knife from the wall and
stabbed his brother. The Squire fell dead on the
floor and then Hurst lifted a heavy chair and flung
himself on the woman. Before she could realise his
object he struck her down, and she remembered no
Jupp stopped and looked pleasantly at his listener.
Miles made an impatient gesture with his hand.
" Go on. Why do you stop ? "
" Because there is nothing more to say."
" But how did Mam'zel escape, seeing that she
was insensible ? "
" Ah, that's what I want to know, and what she
can't tell ! Everything became dim from the time
she was struck down. The first thing she remem-
bered aftervs'ards was Mrs. Frint looking after her
in her own room — that is, in Mrs. Frint's room.
Then she remembers dimly having gone to warn Miss
Hurst, and finally, has a recollection, more or less
faint, of having been brought down to the drawing-
room to face a lot of people."
27^ THE BLACK IMAGE.
" I was there," said Darch briefly ; " then she
remembers nothing dearly ? "
" No ; from the time she fell in the study to the
time she awakened from the long sleep to-day is
more or less of a blank filled with fragmentary sug-
gestions, sometimes true and sometimes false. So
you see we can't get at the exact truth until we
catch Hurst. He has disappeared, and did so when
he heard that Mam'zel had regained her senses."
" That seems to show the trutli of the story you
have told me."
" Yes, I'm glad to hear you say that, since I have
been wavering. I can't see what motive Hurst had
to kill his brother, and of course the woman would
lay the blame on him if she could."
Darch reflected for a few minutes. " I believe
that Hurst wanted the money, and so invented this
plot to get rid of his brother without suspicion
falling on himself. Mam'zel gave him the idea with
her mad attack on the Squire, and he carried out
the idea in the way you have described."
" That won't do," said Jupp, shaking his head,
" for even if the Squire was murdered. Hurst couldn't
get the money, seeing that his niece is the heiress to
" Oh, he meant to get rid of her also, and tried
to do so," said Miles dryly, explaining fortlnvith to
the astonished officer how the two accidents had
" Ha ! " Jupp drew a deep breath ; " this seems to
make things much clearer. What a devil ! Well,
we must find him and force him to confess. The
queer thing is, Mr. Darch," added Jupp, looking
puzzled, " to know how he escaped. I told my men
to let no one in or out of the house, and they were
at every door and about the grounds. Yet Hurst
got away and took the boy with him."
PART OF THE TRUTH. 279
" I know," Miles nodded, " and they were in the
Sanctuary when they were seen last."
" \\Tiat's that got to do with it ? "
" Well, if you know the family legend, and I think
you told me you did, it is there related that many
people disappeared in the time of Amyas Hurst.
It seems to me that there is some secret connected
with the Sanctuary which Hurst discovered."
" There seems to be plenty of secrets connected
with this house," said the Inspector petulantly, for
he was still sore about his failure to discover Mam'zel
when she was concealed by Mrs. Frint. " I think
the best thing to do would be to burn the place down
and end all the mystery."
" Or destroy the statue," said Darch, half to
" Oh, you think that the image has something to
do with the matter ? "
" Yes ; all the trouble began with the closing of
the hand, and although the hand is open again the
trouble still continues. So far, at least, the legend
" What do you mean exactly ? "
" Well, the legend says that when the hand is
closed it means bad luck to the family, and we know
that such was the case. But even when the hand
opened the bad luck continued, so that gives the
lie to the superstition."
" So the hand is open again ? "
" Yes ; it opened some daj^s ago, to end misfor-
tune, as it was said. But now the very worst
misfortune of all has come."
" Do you think that Hurst has anything to do
with the opening and closing of this hand ? " asked
Jupp, after a long pause.
" From what we have learned about him, I think
he has. He was always studying family papers and
28o THE BLACK IMAGE.
documents, so he might have stumbled across some
secret m connection with the Sanctuary."
" And has made use of his knowledge ? "
" That is my idea," said Darch, nodding posi-
" It's not a bad one. We'll have a look at the
Black Image and find out, if possible, how that hand
closes and uncloses. I wonder if Miss Hurst would
let us pull the thing down ? "
" Well, she has some superstition connected with
it, as meaning luck, good or bad, for the family, so
wishes to preserve it. All the same, if needs be, she
might agree to its being pulled down. But let us
try to find Hurst first."
" And Mrs. Frint also," said Junp rising. " I
believe that old woman knows a lot. Do you know
that she is Hurst's wife ? "
" What ! " Darch started to his feet with an
" Yes ; I got that much out of the boy before
he disappeared. Mrs. Frint told him that Hurst
was her husband, and so induced him to hold his
tongue about many things which should have been
" What things ? "
" Ah, I want to find out ! But the boy has dis-
appeared, willingly or unwillingly, with Hurst. I
wonder if he's in the plot in Hurst's favour."
" H'm," said Darch meditatively, " I don't think
so. I trust Jum, as he M^arned me that he might
THE SECRET OF HECATE.
FOR the next three days there were busy times
at the Hall. It was quite in a state of
siege, since news of the sensational events
which were taking place under its roof had spread
rapidly. Tlie murder of the Squire ; the legend of the
Black Image ; the capture of the suspected woman ;
the disappearance of Hurst and the boy ; all these
things were on every one's tongue. A horde of
reporters came from the surrounding district and
from London, anxious to secure exciting narratives
for their respective newspapers. Photographers,
amateur and professional, came also to haunt the
place, and morbid sightseers were very much in
evidence. But all who flocked to Grenacer had
to content themselves with a view of the park wall
and the trees beyond it. Jupp would not allow
anyone to enter the gates, which were guarded day
and night. Policemen were at the entrance to the
park ; in the park itself, and in the wood surround-
ing the Sanctuary, while quite a dozen plain-clothes
detectives were indoors, poking and prying and
watching and asking all kinds of questions.
The Hall servants were in a frenzy, as the presence
of the police, the constant examinations, and the
282 THE BLACK IMAGE.
sense of mystery engendered by the extraordinary
disappearance of Hurst and the page, wore out their
patience and endurance. They would gladly have
left in a body and without their wages, but that the
Inspector insisted that thej^ should remain where
they were, directly under his official eye. Mam'zel
Clarice was still in Mrs. Print's garret, attended by
the doctor, for after her confession was signed and
witnessed, she relapsed into a sound sleep from which
there was no awakening her. Toby allowed her to
sleep on, as he believed that only by complete rest
could she be restored to perfect sanity. Even before
she had slept again, her lucid inter\^al had come to
an end, and she had babbled deliriously, until a pro-
found slumber silenced her tongue. And always her
cry was about " danger," " the scroll," " why did
Hurst read it ? " and then again, " danger, danger,
danger." No one could make any sense out of
these ravings, although, knowing her confession,
both Darch and the Inspector tried to guess what
they meant. But as they could arrive at no con-
clusion, all they could do was to wait until she woke
again, when it was possible — according to Toby —
that her disordered brain might be more composed
Lady Gibson remained at the Hall also, since the
Inspector would not allow her to leave. She re-
mained mostly in her room or in the sitting-room
adjoining, attended to by Sylvia, to whom she clung
like a child. She knew well enough that Darch
would be silent concerning her secret, but dreaded
lest Ralph, in his vindictiveness, might tell it broad-
cast. But Miles reassured her on this point by
explaining that Hurst had quite enough to do in
looking after his safety rather than in talking about a
matter which could not affect it in any way. Some-
times Lady Gibson took this view ; and at other
THE SECRET OF HECATE. 283
times she felt sure that Hurst was betraying her.
But for Sylvia's tender nursing the poor woman
would have gone off her head. As it was, she be-
came so weak that only her daughter's constant
care, and Toby's medical skill, kept her alive. And
by this time she had quite overcome her hatred of
the doctor, and was as anxious that he should marry
Sylvia as formerly she had been opposed to his
Meanwhile, search was being made everywhere
for Hurst, for Jum.and for Mrs. Print. Not a sign
could be discovered of the woman, although adver-
tisements were in all the London papers, and a de-
scription of her appearance was given. The police
hunted for her everywhere, but she could not be
found and, so far as could be discovered, she had
taken no ticket to London at the Brant railway
station. She had disappeared as completely as
the other two, and where they were was quite a
myster5^ No one had seen Hurst or the boy leave
the house ; no one had seen them pass through the
village ; no one had set eyes on them either at Ser-
btry or Brant. They had vanished as completely
as Mrs. Frint had done, and the earth might have
opened to swallow all three for all the trace of their
whereabouts that could be found. It was most
extraordinary, and people found ample food for
gossip in wondering what had become of the trio.
But no one could even guess where they had gone.
Thinking over the family legend, and the fact that
Hurst and the boy had been in the Sanctuary when
they were last seen, Inspector Jupp searched the place
and examined the statue. He believed, as r)arch
did, that there was a secret way out of the Sanctuary ,
made use of by Amyas Hurst to get rid of his victims,
and utilised by his descendant to escape the law.
But although every inch of the ground was examined.
284 THE BLACK IMAGE.
although the image was looked at from every point
of view, no sign of any outlet could be discovered.
Certainly, as Darch pointed out, the man and boy
could have escaped by scaling the wall ; but in that
case they would have been seen abroad. It was
impossible that the}^ could escape the watchfulness
of the police, who had their nets spread over all the
country. Every railway station, every seaport, was
watched, but without success. All that Jupp could
think was that the fugitives were hiding somewhere
in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Frint included. For if
the housekeeper, as had been proved, took no ticket
for London, it was possible that she had not gone
there. Jupp became quite weary in endeavouring to
solve the m3^stery, but the more he tried to do so,
the more he failed.
Melicent now knew the whole story of her uncle's
guilt, and after the first feelings of shame and horror
that he could behave so basely, were over, she braced
herself to calmness. As she had faced things before,
bravely, so she faced them now, and was even willing
that the statue should be pulled down, so that the
truth should become known. But she regretted
having to do so, and one evening when in the Sanc-
tuary with Miles, looking at the sinister figure, said
as much. Darch shrugged his shoulder.
" I don't see why 370U should mind, Melicent," he
said, staring at the gigantic image standing grimly
and blackly on its mossy platform. " It's not a
pretty object and, moreover, so far, has brought
nothing but trouble."
" Then you do believe that the opening and
shutting of the hand has brought trouble ? " she
" I believe that the opening and closing of the
hand is due to some secret mechanism," said Miles
after a pause, " and that your uncle found some old
THE SECRET OF HECATE. 285
document which explained the same. Some parch-
ment or scroll or "
" Miles/' Melicent spoke in an excited tone,
" don't 5^011 remember how Mam'zel keeps talking
about a scroll, which uncle shouldn't have read."
" Yes ; that makes me believe that he found a
scroll describing how the hand could be opened and
shut," said Miles quietly ; " but whj^ are you so
excited ? "
" Because there is the scroll," and Melicent
pointed to the leaden roll which Hecate held in her
" Oh, that's only a fancy touch to indicate the
scroll of fate."
" It's lead, and lead can be rolled and unrolled,"
>aid the girl positively, as she fingered the scroll.
" Try and pull it away from the hand, Miles, and
see if there is any writing on it."
The idea was so wild that the young man laughed
it to scorn. However, to pacify the girl, who was
greatly excited, he tugged at the roll in the hand of
the image. Once, twice and thrice he tugged. Then,
to his surprise, he did pull the scroll away from the
closed hand. " Hullo," said Miles, greatly surprised,
" it isn't fastened to the hand. Evidently it was
meant to be removed."
" Of course, of course," cried Melicent feverishly.
" Open it, open it. I do believe that it contains
some explanation about the statue and our family
luck. Oh, do be quick, Miles."
" My dear child, it isn't easy to unroll," said the
young man, who was deftly bending the lead. " It's
squeezed together pretty tightly."
However, after much difficulty, he managed to
flatten out the lead and went indoors to examine it
by lamp-light. Laying it on the table in the study
he examined it carefully, while Melicent peered over
286 THE BLACK IMAGE.
his shoulder, breathing quickly and with shining
" It has writing on it," she cried, dancing with
excitement. " Lots of writing. But what queer-
" Gothic letters ; the kind of black type one finds
in old tomes," explained the lawyer, becoming
excited in his turn, " and it's in Latin too. By jove,
Melicent, I believe you've hit upon the truth.
This is the scroll that your uncle read, and I believe
it contains an account of how to open and shut the
hand of Hecate. There's some kind of machinery
about the business, 3'ou may be sure. But why did
your uncle put it back again, and so risk the
discovery of his villainy ? "
" He never thought that any one would think it
was meant to be taken out of Hecate's hand," said
Melicent reflectively ; " and but that Mam'zel talked
of the scroll, I shouldn't have suggested j'our
removing it. Do read it. Miles."
" My dear child, I can't, straight away. It's in
Latin, and some of the Gothic letters are very faint.
I'll tackle it to-night, and probably will have
deciphered the whole thing by the morning."
" I shan't sleep a wink until I know what is in it."
" Don't be silly, Melicent. And don't say a word
about this to anyone. I'll translate it and see what
it says, then we can tell Jupp."
" All right," said Melicent soberly. " I'll not say
a word. But I'm sure I shan't sleep a wink."
" Nor shall I," answered Darch ruefully. " This
will take me the whole night to get the hang of. It
is a find. I believe it will solve the whole mystery
of the Sanctuarv."
Miles did sit up the whole night, for, good
scholar as he was, and patient in every way,
the scroll taxed all his capabilities to decipher
THE SECRET OF HECATE. 287
and translate. For hours and hours he laboured,
setting down letter after letter and word after
word on a sheet of paper until he had the whole
transcribed. Towards the end of the scroll some
of the Gothic letters had been rubbed out, and the
information contained in the document — if it could
be called so — came to an abrupt end. Then Miles
translated the Latin into English, and was amazed
by what he read. He would have awakened the
house with a war-whoop, but that he managed to keep
himself well in hand. It was dawn when he ended
his labours, and he retired to bed to snatch a couple
of hours' sleep, and did his best to do so. But his
every effort was vain, for the reading of the scroll
had excited him too much. He was up and dressed
and sent a policeman on a bicycle for Jupp long
before Melicent made her appearance, and then he
refused to answer her eager inquiries until the
" Why can't you tell me about it ? " asked
Melicent, much vexed by this reticence.
" You'll learn everything when Jupp arrives,"
replied Darch hastily. " Meanwhile, tell one of the
policemen to fetch the village blacksmith."
" What for ? " MeHcent obediently turned to go.
" You'll learn when you and I and Jupp arc in the
Sanctuary learning the secret which Hecate has held
for so long. Since the days of James, I may say,,
for it was then Amyas Hurst put up the beastly
" Hecate's secret was found out by Uncle Ralph,"
said Melicent dryly, " so she has not kept it to herself
so long as you think."
However, she sent the constable for the black-
smith and his tools, wondering greatly why they
were wanted. When Jupp arrived, full of curiosity
to learn the reason for his unexpected summons. l\e
288 THE BLACK IMAGE.
found Darch in the Sanctuary together with the
blacksmith and Miss Hurst. Miles explained how
the girl had suggested that the scroll should be taken
from Hecate's hand, and how he had sat up all night
reading the same and translating it. The Inspector
listened to all this in amazement, and asked if there
was anything in the leaden scroll likely to solve the
mystery of the Sanctuary.
" It explains all about the statue," said Miles,
holding out his translation. " If you read this you
will learn what this accursed thing really is."
Jupp took the papers, looked at them doubtfully,
and finally thrust them into his pocket. " You can
explain," he said briskly. " I can't be bothered to
read them now. It would take up too much time."
"Oh, I can explain in a few minutes," said Miles
quickly. " You know, since you have heard the
family legend, that Amyas Hurst travelled to Nurem-
berg, and brought his wife from that city."
" Yes ; she was burnt as a witch, wasn't she ? "
" Exactly ! And her loss sent Amyas more or less
out of his mind. At least, I think so, or he wouldn't
have invented this beastly statue."
" How do you mean invented it, Miles ? " asked
Melicent, who was listening keenly. " It's merely
a statue of Lady Hurst."
" It's more than that, Melicent. Have you heard
of the Maid of Nuremberg, that horrible thing, which
opens its arms and crushes people."
Jupp, who was a well-read man, nodded. " Is
this statue formed on the same model ? " he asked,
glancing up at the figure.
" In a way. But you can see for yourself. The
scroll says that there is machinery)' in the platform,
which, when set in motion, causes the statue to open.
Also in the right arm there is a long screw — you see
that the arm is straight — which can be used to open
THE SECRET OF HECATE. zSg
and shut the hand. As you might put it, there is an
iron skeleton hand inside that leaden one, which can
contract and open as the screw is worked."
" I see," said Jupp, while Melicent uttered an
exclamation of surprise. " And Hurst found this
out ? "
" I think so ; otherwise, how could the hand open
and close. But you can examine the interior of the
statue for yourself."
" One moment," said the Inspector, wishing to be
fully informed of everything ; " why did Amyas
Hurst make such a statue ? "
" He was mad, I think, as I said before," answered
Miles frankly. " The burning of his beloved wife
must have sent him off his head. And I fancy those
people who disappeared in his days must have been
decoyed here and thrust by Amyas Hurst into the
statue to be crushed to death, just as was done in
Nuremberg with the statue there."
" What a terrible idea," said Melicent, growing
white. " And do you think — do you think," she
faltered, "that Uncle Ralph is — is" — her voice
failed her, and she could only point to the village.
" No ! no ! He couldn't have shut himself in.
Anyone placed in the statue, I think, would have to
be shut in by working the machinery."
" Jum went with him," said Melicent in a low
tone of horror.
" I know. But I don't think your uncle would
have allowed Jum to close him up in that image to
starve or to be crushed to death. Besides, Jum
can't be found any more than your uncle can."
" Well, let us see how the statue can be opened.
Here, my man, have you your tools ? " said Jupp to
the blacksmith, who all this time had been standing
by the image, looking at it with an awestruck air,
and listening with all his might.
290 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Yes, sir. WTiat am I to do, sir ? " He addressed
Miles, who referred to the copy of his translation
which he had kept .
" Come here." The j'oung man moved to the side
of the platform on which the statue stood, and knelt
down to run his hand along the stone face under the
projecting bricks. For some time he was unsuccess-
ful in finding what he wanted, but ultimately his
face brightened. " Ah, here we are ! You see this
hole, Jupp ? Well, by putting an instrument into
this the statue can be opened and shut. It's like
a watch being wound up. We haven't got the
original instrument, but I dare say we'll manage.
We really want a gigantic key."
But the thing was not done easily. The black-
smith took out his tools and fumbled away for a long
time at the hole. Finally he had to break away the
brickwork and lay bare a projecting iron shaft cut
square at the end. B}^ using a spanner, a pair of
pincers and several other things, he managed to
twist this round with some effort. Melicent uttered
an exclamation, for she saw the body of the statue
" It's parting ; it's parting," she cried, clapping
her hands, " and see, Mr. Jupp, there's a crack down
here all the M^ay."
The Inspector, scarcely less excited than she was,
hurried round to where she had gone, and saw indeed
that a line was showing from the head to the heels
of the image. Aided by Miles, the blacksmith
turned the shaft slowly, as it was evidently rather
rusty. All at once the working became easy and
the shaft revolved rapidly. Jupp and Melicent on
the other side watched the line widening gradually,
as the statue parted slowly in two. Then the
Inspector uttered a cry of amazement.
" There's a body inside," he said.
THE SECRET OF HECATE. 291
" Oh ! " Melicent shrieked, " can it be Uncle
Ralph ? "
" No, it's a woman's body. See the dress — a
black dress," cried Jupp, excited beyond measure,
for he guessed what was coming.
Miles, knowing that it was easy to turn the shaft
now, ran round to join the two spectators. The
blacksmith twisted and twisted as hard as he was
able, until the statue yawned widely. Then out of
it, sideways, there tilted a body — the bod}' of the
woman. Spellbound, the three onlookers saw it
come into the light of day and fall out of the vile
" Great heavens! " cried Miles, bending over the
corpse, " it's Mrs. Frint ! "
IN this way one of the three missing people
returned, and most unexpectedly. Even
Jupp, with his lifelong experience of crime,
had never dreamed of such a thing. Like every one
else, he had fully believed that Mrs. Frint was alive
and, for some reason, in hiding. She had certainly
been driven to Brant by her husband, for several of
the servants had seen her depart with him, and also
had seen the man return without her. There was
not the slightest suspicion that Hurst had made
away with the woman.
" I expect that when he left her at the Brant
railway station," surmised the Inspector, " she
followed him back instead of going to London as he
desired her to do. This pertinacity probably made
him kill her, as she knew too much about her
" But where did he murder her ? " asked Melicent,
who was more and more horrified by the recital of
her uncle's criminality.
" In the study, I should think. You see, she has
been stabbed to the heart, just as your father was,
and probably with another weapon taken from the
trophies of arms on the wall. It would be easy
for a powerful man like your uncle to carry the
body into the Sanctuary and shut it up in the
" How could Mrs. Frint get into the house ? "
asked Darch suddenly ; "for if she had entered
openly the servants would have seen her."
" Knowing the terms on which she was with her
husband, I don't suppose she attempted to enter
openly. But you remember, Mr. Darch, that Hurst
said she knew the Hall better than he did himself,
and this is proved by the way in which she concealed
Mam'zel Clarice when I searched for her. Mrs.
Frint, I believe, knew of some secret way by which
she could enter. She did, and then Hurst got rid of
her by violence. But there," Jupp waved his hand
to suggest the impossibility of solving the problem,
" this is all surmise. Until Hurst is caught and
is forced to confess, we will never learn all the
" We know a great deal of it," said Melicent, with
" Yes, Miss Hurst ; but we wish to know more.
Wlien we find your uncle and can arrest him "
Darch interrupted the speaker in a positive way.
" You may find him, Mr. Inspector, but I don't
believe you will ever arrest him. He will blow
himself up rather than surrender to be hanged."
" Blow himself up," Jupp looked puzzled, " how
can he do that ? "
" With a bomb that he bought from an anarchist
in London some weeks ago."
" A bomb ? The deuce ! " Jupp looked uneasy.
" It isn't a comfortable idea to think that a des-
perate man is lurking somewhere with a bomb.
Out of revenge he may exterminate the whole lot
of us. But what is he doing with a bomb ? "
Darch explained, suppressing the true reason of
294 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Hurst's visit to Struma. " I believe he intended
to kill Melicent in that way. There, there, darling,
I didn't intend to frighten you, but we may as well
face the worst."
Melicent had started when she heard this bald
speech, which was sufficient to shake tlie strongest
nerve. Nevertheless, save turning a trifle paler, she
did not blench, but only held her head higher.
" Like Macbeth, I'm screwed up to the sticking
point," she said defiantly ; " and, come what may,
I'm not going to be frightened any more."
" Bravo, Miss Hurst ! " said the Inspector, with
hearty admiration ; " you are a real brick. I don't
like the idea of a bomb in your uncle's hands, but
it's part of my business to take risks. All the same,
as I believe he is hidden somewhere about this place,
perhaps it will be as well for you and the other ladies
to go to Serbery untiLwe catch him."
" No ; I'll stay here with Miles," Melicent caught
her lover's hand. " If we are to be blown up we may
as well die together," for which brave speech —
and it was brave — Miles kissed her, while Jupp
This conversation took place late in the afternoon,
and long after the body of the unfortunate woman
had been removed into the house. Smith had been
called by the Inspector to examine the corpse, and
said that Mrs. Frint had been stabbed to the heart
just as her late master had been stabbed. So far
as he could judge from the state of the body, he
placed the date of the poor creature's death, some
daj^s back, which agreed with Jupp's belief that
Hurst had got rid of her on the very night when he
had driven her to the Brant station. Both the
doctor and Darch agreed with Jupp's view that she
had returned to denounce Hurst's crimes, and had
been murdered by him to save himself from ex-
posure. Mrs. Print still wore her black dress, a
mantle, her bonnet and gloves, so, undoubtedly,
entering the Hall by some secret wa}^ known to
herself, she had come suddenly upon her wicked
husband. It was probable that he had struck her
down before she could alarm the house, and then
had huddled the body into the statue with all speed.
How the man was able to go about with two crimes
on his conscience, Darch found it impossible to guess.
His nerve must have been extraordinary, as the
young man thought, especially when he remembered
Ralph's hilarit}^ on the night of the dinner party.
He was certainly a villain, but an uncommonly
jMelicent, warned by her lover, was careful not to
recall to Lady Gibson the fact that Hurst was in
possession of a bomb. Both she and Sylvia were
horrified to hear of this fresh crime, and in consider-
ing it. Lady Gibson forgot about the bomb. If she
had dwelt on the subject, and thought that Ralph
would use the same, she would have been frightened
out of her senses. As it was, she felt very much afraid,
and Jupp had to be brought to her room to console
her with a promise of his speedy capture. But this
was making bad worse, for the poor woman immedi-
ately believed that, when in the hands of the law.
Hurst would give away her secret. She became so
agitated that Smith liad to be sent for again, and
he managed to pacify her more or less. Finally he
induced her to go to bed, and take another sleeping
draught. This settled things for the time being, as
she fell into a deep slumber, and the two girls re-
mained in the room, watching beside her bedside.
Darch was thankful to get Melicent to stay with
Sylvia, as he wished to have a talk with Inspector
Jupp over the present aspect of affairs. Toby, of
course, was still in attendance on Mam'zel Clarice,
296 THE BLACK IMAGE.
who was as sound asleep as Lady Gibson appeared
to be. So everything was all right in both these
directions, and Miles was able to turn his attention
For Melicent's sake, the young man was anxious
to hush up matters with regard to Ralph's wicked-
ness. But this was clearly impossible. Although
the Inspector had said nothing about the confession
to the outside public, rumour had immediately re-
ported Hurst to be the murderer of his brother,
because he had disappeared. Then, owing to the
presence of the blacksmith when the body was
found, the murder of Mrs. Frint could not be con-
cealed. It was believed that Ralph had murdered
her also, and on that evening the whole village was
in an uproar. Every one discussed the flight of the
man and his abominable conduct, building up fresh
stories of horror on insufficient foundations. The
London and local reporters, who still lurked about
the place, were scribbling as fast as they could, and
wired to their respective papers promising fresh
revelations regarding the mystery of the Black Image.
For many centuries Grenacer had been a quiet, un-
known village. Now, owing to the tragedies, it
leaped into sudden fame. It was talked about in
the newspapers ; it was given a place on the map ;
and from one end of the kingdom to the other men-
tion was being made of the crimes which had earned
it so widespread and evil a reputation. Like Lord
Byron, the village awoke to find itself famous,
although not in an agreeable way.
Jupp came to the consultation in the library
after dinner with an air of exultation, and sat
down to produce a long blue envelope out of his
"Do you know what this is?" he asked the
" No ! " retorted Miles, rather snappishly, for his
nerves were worn thin by constant unpleasant sur-
prises. " More trouble ? "
" In one way, yes ; in another way, no," answered
Jupp with a shrug. " I now know what a complete
scoundrel Hurst is, and at the same time the know-
ledge will help me to arrive at some conclusion how
to put things straight."
" I hope you will be able to put them straight,"
sighed the lawyer, " for I am getting quite dazed
with all this worry."
" Very naturally, very naturally. However, I
won't keep you in suspense any longer." He drew
several sheets of foolscap from the envelope. " This
is the full confession of Mrs. Print as to her dealings
with that blackguard — and he is a blackguard," said
Jupp, frowning, " one of the worst."
" It didn't need Mrs. Print's confession to tell me
that, Jupp. Where did you find it ? "
" In the pocket of her dress. I didn't examine
the clothes for some time, but after Smith looked
at the body I went up, with two of my men, and
searched her pockets. I found this," he tapped the
loose sheets. " Evidently she anticipated that
Hurst, driven into a corner, might murder her, and
so wrote out all she knew about him. This state-
ment clears Mam'zel Clarice completely, as Hurst
confessed to his wife that he murdered his brother
in order to get possession of the property, if possible."
" And Melicent ? Does the confession say that he
intended to murder Melicent ? "
" It does. But Hurst never told his wife so. She
only suspected it, because of his saying that he
wanted the family property. Por that reason she
did her best to save the girl, and got that boy to
" Read it,"
298 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" No ; I'll tell it, and 3'ou can read it for yourself
later." Jupp replaced the loose sheets in the en-
velope and began his story. " It seems that Mrs.
Print was born in the village and lived all her life
at the Hall, beginning as a nursemaid and ending
as the housekeeper. She was a pretty girl, and
Hurst, who seemed to have had a keen eye for
beauty, married her."
" I thought John Frint, the bailiff, did."
" That was a blind. Ralph explained that as he
had run through his money and was dependent on
his brother for bread and butter, he could not make
the marriage public without losing everything. Mrs.
Frint — we can still continue to call her so — was
madly in love with the man, and agreed to conceal
the marriage until such time as it could be revealed
with safety. She M'ent to London pretending to be
married to John Frint, and really was married to
Ralph Hurst. Frint was bribed by Hurst to go to
America, and there, after some years, he died. The
woman returned to the Hall as Mrs. Frint, and
afterwards Hurst returned too, in order to look after
the estate as his brother's bailiff. The position
remained thus for many years."
" But why didn't Mrs. Frint object ? If she was
lawfull}^ Ralph's wife I can't see why she should have
been content with the position of housekeeper."
" Well, 3'ou never know women," drawled the
Inspector with a shrug. " Ralph, it seems, was her
master, and rather a tyrant. She adored him and
obeyed him in every way. He was always promising
her that he would acknowledge the marriage as soon
as he could do so with safety. In one way and
another he managed to get her to hold her tongue."
" And the announcement of Hurst's engagement to
Sylvia ? "
" I'm coming to that. Let us proceed in due
order," said Jupp quickly. " In the first place,
Hurst was very angry when he heard that his brother
was to marry Miss Gibson. But we know all about
that and how he acted from the statement of Mam'zel
Miles nodded. " Let us come to the murder of
" Mrs. Print did not see it, but she forced a con-
fession from Hurst."
" How did she manage that ? "
" Well, 3^ou know that the window of her first
bedroom overlooked the Sanctuary. On the night
of the murder Mrs. Print was suspicious of her hus-
band and watched him. Though, for the matter
of that," added Jupp, " she was always suspicious
and always watchful, which can scarcely be
" I agree, considering how he treated her. Well ? "
" Well, Mrs. Print, watching from her bedroom
wmdow, could see the light streaming from the
Squire's study into the Sanctuary, and knew that
her master was still staying up reading. Then she
thought she heard a cry and opened her window to
listen. She saw Ralph carry a body to the statue
and shut it up in it."
" But did she know that the statue was hollow ? "
" Yes," said the Inspector, promptly and un-
expectedly. " It seems that Hurst, as we guessed,
by poking about amongst the family papers, learned
the secret of the statue. Mrs. Print came upon hiin
unexpectedly in the library reading the document,
and told him that the Squire wished to see him.
That was why she came, but when Hurst left the
library she looked at the document. It consisted nt
several loose sheets, and Ralph had apparently read
two. The third one she took awav."
300 THE BLACK IMAGE
" Well, the first two sheets told what we know
about the opening of the image and the way in which
the hand could be opened and shut. The remaining
sheet said that there was a kind of sliding trap-door
immediately under the feet of Hecate in the plat-
form. When this was drawn aside, by means of a
winch worked from the other side of the platform,
it gave access to a cave. And it seemed that when
Amyas Hurst shut up his victims in the statue, later
on he opened the trap-door and they fell into the
cave below. Then he took the bodies to the Gren,
through the cave, and sank them, with stones, to
" Horrible," said Miles with dismay, and shudder-
ing. " So that was how people disappeared in
Amyas Hurst's day ? "
Jupp nodded. " The man seemed to have gone
mad and wished to revenge his wife, for it was owing
to the clamour of the villagers that she was burnt
as a witch. There is another exit from the cave,
which opens on to the bank of the Gren, and through
this Amyas Hurst dragged his victims. Being
weighted with stones, of course they sank to the
bottom of the stream and were never found again."
"I see ; but why did Mrs, Print take away the
third sheet ? "
" Because she doubted her husband and believed
that he might make some bad use of the informa-
tion. He had already read the first two sheets
describing the mechanism of that horrible statue, so
it was useless to take those But he had not read
the last sheet, which revealed the whereaboutsj of
the cave and the fact that all details of the same
were engraved on the scroll in the hands of the
" So Ralph never knew about the cave or the
" No ; he accused Mrs. Frint of removing the
third sheet, but she swore that she had not touched
it, and he had to hold his tongue about the loss, as
she said she would tell the Squire about the matter
if he made trouble. So you see, Mr. Darch, that
Mrs. Frint knew that the statue was hollow, and
quite understood that her husband was hiding a
body in the same."
"Did she know the body was that of Mam'zel
Clarice ? "
" No ; she believed it was that of the Squire.
She hurried down and found the door of the study
locked — you remember that Mam'zel said she locked
the door in her confession. Hurst heard her knock-
ing and fled. He climbed up the ladder, over the
wall, and down by the chestnut tree. Then he
took Mam'zel's motor-cycle she had left by his
instructions on the verge of the wood, and rode
" WTiat did Mrs. Frint do ? "
" She remembered the cave and believed that she
could get hold of the Squire's body to hide it lest her
husband should be accused. Remember, so far she
believed it ivas the Squire's body which was hidden
in the statue. She ran upstairs and wakened Jum
to help her. Then the two got out of the house by
the postern and hurried round to the wood. Mrs.
Frint already knew where the entrance to the cave
was and how to lift the stone, as she had made an
examination shortly after reading the third sheet.
Along with Jum she entered the cave, worked the
winch, and Mam'zel Clarice fell into the cave."
" Much to Mrs. Frint's astonishment," said Miles,
greatly excited over the story, which certainly was
" Yes ; she expected to find the Squire. How-
ever, discovering that the woman was only stunned,
302 THE BLACK IMAGE.
she and Jum carried her back to the house and hid
her in Mrs. Print's bedroom. Then she was trans-
ferred to the garrets when the housekeeper changed
her bedroom. You know the rest."
Miles nodded. " \Miy didn't Mrs. Print tell her
husband ? "
" She doubted him and wished to have a weapon
with which to control him. So she said nothing,
for the time being, and made Jum hold his tongue.
I expect in the long run she would have told the
truth. But meanwhile she did tell Hurst that she
had seen him carr^dng a body to the statue, and
forced him to admit having committed the crime."
" Wasn't Hurst astonished b^^ the disappearance
of the woman's body ? "
" Yes ; he taxed his wife with removing it, since
he knew she had read the two sheets of the manu-
script. She did not tell him that Mam'zel Clarice
was alive and in her bedroom, but said that she had
taken the body from the statue and had sunk it in
the river. She wanted to keep Mam'zel in reserve
as a v.'-eapon against Hurst, you see. And when
Hurst became engaged to Miss Gibson she swore
that she would produce evidence that he had killed
his brother unless he acknowledged the marriage
" Did Ralph then suspect that Mam'zel Clarice
was alive ? "
"Oh, yes! Mrs. Print told him afterwards, but
refused to say where she was hidden. Ralph then
said that if she would go to London he would later
acknowledge the marriage. As you know, he dis-
missed her and drove her to the station."
" And then ? "
" Then the statement ends. But I expect Mrs.
Print came back and was murdered by the beast
since she knew enough to hang him twice over,"
" \M\y didn't Jum, who was devoted to his aunt,
work the trap door under the statue and discover
the murder ? "
" Because I don't beHeve he knew that Mrs. Print
was dead. He thought, as we all did, that she had
gone to London, since Hurst drove her to Brant. I
don't know what to make of the bo}^" added Jupp,
scratching his head. " It seems to me that he is in
league with Hurst since he went away with him."
" I don't think so. He loved his aunt too much.
I believe the bo}^ is sticking to Hurst so as to hand
him over in the long run to you."
" It might be so," said Jupp doubtfully ; " but
I have my own opinion, and it doesn't agree with
yours, Mr. Darch."
" Jum asked me to trust him," said the barrister
firmly, " and I'm going to trust him."
" Well, we'll see," Jupp rose. " Meanwhile, let
us have a look at the cave to-morrow. I'd like to
see the whole devilish conta-ivance."
" So should I" replied Darch, with a yawn.
" Your story is very interesting, Mr. Inspector, but
I don't see how it straightens out things as you said
" At all events this confession proves Mam'zel
Clarice to be completely innocent," snapped Jupp,
" Yes ; but it doesn't enable us to capture Hurst,
and that's the main thing, Mr. Inspector. He has
that bomb, you know, and may blow up the Hall at
any moment. I wish we could get hold of Jum. He
would be able to tell us where Hurst is hiding."
Darch finished with another yawn and then gave
a cry of surprise, which was echoed by the Inspector.
As if in answer to his name, Jum crept into the
room, a grimy, ragged little figure, thin and pale.
With a gasp of relief he saw Darch and the officer,
304 THE BLACK IMAGE.
tottering towards them rather than walking, for so
worn out was the lad that he could scarcely stand.
He staggered towards the lawyer and clutched his
" Come with me, sir. I've got him."
" Hurst," shouted the Inspector, recovering from
" Yes ; I stuck to him and guided him to a hiding-
place that I knew so that I could get him arrested."
" The cave ? " said Darch suddenly.
" Do you know of the cave, sir ? "
" Yes, I — here, Jum, drink this wine or you'll
faint." Miles hastily poured out a glass of port from
a bottle which Jupp had been enjoying during the
conversation and passed it to the boy.
" Is Hurst in that cave under the statue ? " asked
Jupp impatiently, while the boy drank the wine, of
which he stood in much need.
" Yes ; I took him there, sir. We climbed over
the walls of the Sanctuary when Mr. Ralph heard
Mam'zel was able to talk. I took him to the cave,
pretending to be his friend. He believed me at first,
but afterwards he became suspicious, and when I
wanted to go out he wouldn't let me. But he fell
asleep, and I managed to escape and "
" You can tell the rest another time, my boy," said
Jupp, hurrying to the door. " In the meantime,
come and show me where this cave is. I must get
Jum was more in need of rest and food than any-
thing else, but the wine had put new life into him,
and with an indomitable spirit he promised to lead
the way to the mysterious cave. All the time he
clung to Darch' s hand and guided Jupp with his five
men to the spot. They went down the avenue, along
the wall of the park and entered the wood surround-
ing the walls of the Sanctuary. Here, on the side
facing the river, Jum pointed to a large moss-grown
stone, beneath which no one would have suspected
a cavity. He also hauled out of the underwood a
handle which could be fitted on to a square nut.
The nut itself was the square-cut end of a shaft in the
wall. The mechanism to raise the stone was similar
to that which had opened the image of Hecate,
primitive, but good enough for its purpose. Jupp
immediatel}^ got to work, but not without a warning
from the boy.
" He's got a bomb," said Jum faintly, " and he'll
use — use — it," his voice trailed away into a weak
whisper, and he fell fainting on the ground, worn
out by privation and excitement. Darch picked the
little hero up in his arms. Jupp, undaunted by the
warning, soon had the stone raised and ventured
himself down the steps which were revealed. But
scarcely had he set his foot on the first step when
there came a hollow boom, and he was fairly blown
out of the cavity. The boom was followed by a roar
and from beyond the walls masses of earth and trees
and stones and lead were thrown up. The tre-
m.endous explosion shook the whole place, and a
vivid flare of red flame illuminated the dark sky far
and wide. In a moment Darch guessed that Hurst,
rather than be taken, had exploded the bomb and,
with Jum in his arms, ran away. The policemen
and detectives seized hold of the Inspector, who
had been rendered insensible by the explosion, and
fell back. They and Darch were just in time, for
scarcely had they got to the verge of the wood than
the wall of the Sanctuary fell with a loud crash,
breaking the trees and scattering bricks everywhere.
Then came a horrified pause.
" The whole place is blown to bits," cried Darch,
and laying Jum gently on the ground he ran forward
followed by the men.
306 THE BLACK IMAGE.
He was right. The roof of the cave had been
blown out, the yew trees and cypress trees were torn
down and tumbled about, w^hile the famous Black
Image was shattered to atoms. And below all the
debris lay the body of the rash villain who had dis-
covered the secret of Amyas Hurst to his own
GREAT as had been the sensation before the
explosion, it was greater still after that
catastrophe took place. In spite of the late
hour the villagers from Grenacer flocked to the
ruined Sanctuary, and it took all the efforts of the
constables on guard to prevent them from meddling.
And, of course, the policemen were not going to allow
anything to be touched until their superior officer
came to his senses. This did not take longer than
an hour, for Jupp was only slightly stunned, having
knocked his head against a tree-trunk when blown
out of the cavity. When in full possession of his
brain-power he bound a wet cloth round his head
and directed operations. As the hour was late and
the night was dark, nothing could be done until the
morning. But the villagers still persisted in remaining
near the Hall, and it is recorded in Grenacer chron-
icles that no one went to bed that night. From
the sleep of centuries the villagers had awakened
thoroughly. The moral as well as the physical
effects of the explosion shook them into active life.
Therefore, as one of them remarked, it was a true
proverb that said: "It's an ill wind that blows
nobody any good."
Next day the place was like Barnet Fair. From
3o8 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Serbery, from Brant, from all kinds of unknown
hamlets in the surrounding country, people came on
foot, on bicycles, and in vehicles of every descrip-
tion. The news of the last phase of the crime was
telegraphed to London by enthusiastic reporters,
and with the early trains more reporters arrived,
along with photographers belonging to weekly and
daily illustrated papers. The village inn was filled
with people w^ho meant to stay for a few days and
see the thing out to its bitter end. That the end
had really come never occurred to any one, since
the case had gone on affording sensation after sensa-
tion for so long. But this was the purely thought-
less opinion of the general public, for Darch knew
that everything was over once and for all. The
Black Image, with its luck, bad and good, had
disappeared, and with it disappeared all further
The shock of the explosion startled Lady Gibson,
and threw her into hysterics. But when she learned
that Hurst was dead she revived wonderfully, and
sent for Miles the first thing in the morning. To
his surprise he found her quite her old self,
although slightly older-looking. She was painted and
powdered as of yore, beautifully dressed, and was
as ready to shrug and use her lorgnette as ever.
Darch expressed his surprise to Sylvia, who stood
beside her mother with a brighter face than usual.
Lady Gibson overheard his speech and laughed gaily.
" My dear man, can't you see that everything is
all right ? " she said, with her famous shrug. " Now
that bad man is dead no one will ever know the
secret about my early marriage save you and I,
Sylvia and Struma."
" Will Struma hold his tongue ? "
" Oh, yes ! " Lady Gibson waved her lorgnette
lightly. " He never meant to tell that horrid
THE WHOLE TRUTH. 309
creature as it was. Ralph wormed the secret out
of him and lield it over me in the abominable way
you know of. But, thank heaven, he is dead and
^\dll never be my son-in-law."
"And who is to be your son-in-law, Lady Gibson ? "
asked Miles seriously.
" Why, Toby Smith, of course. Oh, 3'es, I call
him Tob}/ now, though it does sound like the name
of a French poodle ! I have learned a lesson, Miles,"
she became grave, " and although I speak lightly I
am deeply thankful to Providence for saving me
from shame and S3^1via from that horrible marriage.
Poor as Toby is, I am quite willing that he should
marry my daughter. Although," Lady Gibson
shrugged and became frivolous again, " goodness
only knows how we are to manage things. I can
see nothing before us but the Bankruptcy Court. I
haven't a shilling."
" I don't think j-ou'll go through the Bankruptcy'
Court," said Darch, smiling, as he thought of Uncle
George and his little plot.
" How nice of you to say so; but miracles don't
" I think they do," said Miles dryly ; " if you will
think over the events of the last month or so."
" I don't want to think of them," said Lady
Gibson, with a shiver. " That policeman Jupp has
told me and Sylvia and Mclicent the whole story
from first to last. It's horrible."
" So horrible that I wish he hadn't said anything
to Melicent. She has had so much to bear that this
new knowledge will break her down."
" Oh, no, it won't ! She is relieved by the death
of her uncle, as we all are, for it would have been
disagreeable had he lived to be hanged. Melicent
said that you refused to tell her the story after the
explosion, and sent her to bed."
310 THE BLACK IMAGE.
" I did. I thought it was best she should sleep."
" I don't think any one of us slept," said Sylvia
wearily ; " and Melicent went downstairs to see the
Inspector as soon as it was light. She brought him
up here, as my mother was anxious to hear the truth,
and he told us all."
" And you would have heard it also if you hadn't
been asleep, Miles," said Lady Gibson with great
" You forget that I knew all the story before the
explosion took place," was Darch's reply. " What
are you going to do, Lad}' Gibson ? "
" Return to town to-day," she answered promptl}'.
" I really cannot stay here after all these horrors.
Then Toby can come to town in a few days, and we
can arrange about the wedding. You should get
married at the same time. Miles, as I am sure
Melicent can't be left alone in this dreadful place."
" I intend to persuade Melicent to consent to an
early wedding," said Darch with a smile, and then
left the room, to fmd Smith and congratulate him
on the behaviour of Lady Gibson regarding his
romance with Sjdvia.
To Darch's surprise he found not only Toby but
Uncle George. The old merchant had returned
from Paris on the previous day, and on hearing of
the stirring events at Grenacer he had come down
by an early train.
" Were you successful in finding out an}'thing in
Paris ? " asked Darch.
" About Lady Gibson's secret ? " answered Uncle
George. " Oh, no ! I found that Hurst told a lie
about Mam'zel having been in the secret service of
the French police. She never had anything to do
with them, so how Hurst learned the secret I can't
say, no more than I can guess why he told a lie
about the woman."
THE WHOLE TRUTH. 311
"It was all part of the plot to implicate Mam'zel in
the murder," said Miles musingly. "He wished to
give her the credit for his man^^ evil inventions, in
the hope that they would bring her to the scaffold
and save himself. An ordinary woman would not
have thought of such things, but a woman who had
been in the secret service abroad might."
Toby nodded. " I quite see Hurst's idea," he
said, "and I may as well tell you, Miles, that Mam'zel
is now all right. She only needs nursing to be quite
herself, as she won't lose her senses again. I taxed
her with being in the French secret service, and she
denied that she had been. Hurst said she was, so
as to account for the clever way in which the crime
was executed, presumably by her. Poor creature,
I am glad she escaped in spite of her folly with regard
10 the Squire, which really is at the root of all the
"That man was a fiend," said Uncle George
vigorously ; " and this secret of Lady Gibson's
Avhich he knew "
" Oh, it really wasn't a secret," broke in Miles,
telling a very white lie to shield the poor woman.
" Hurst threatened to murder her unless she con-
sented to his marrying her daughter."
" Oh, that was the reason, was it ? " said the old
man, accepting the explanation in all good faith,
" Well, he was quite capable of doing it, seeing how-
he murdered his wife and brother and then blew
himself up. I'm sorry I didn't sec the statue,
however," added Uncle George with real regret.
" It must have been very interesting."
" Very," assented Miles grimly. " All the same,
I'm glad it has been destroyed."
" So am I," added Toby. " And I'm glad
also that Hnrst is dead. We're just going up to
see Lady Gibson and Sylvia, Miles. Don't you
312 THE BLACK IMAGE.
think that they are both lookmg surprisingly well,
" Oh, yes ! " Miles assented readily enough. " They
seem to have awakened from a nightmare," and
privately, the young man thought that they had.
So while Toby and his uncle went upstairs, Miles
sought the dining-room, where Melicent was giving
the Inspector his breakfast. Jupp looked wonder-
fully bright and lively in spite of his bandaged
head. Like every one else he was thankful that
the myster}' of the crimes and of the statue had
been solved. WTiile eating he commented on the
" I assure you, Darch, this case is the most
wonderful within my experience, and I have been
congratulating Miss Hurst on its end," he said,
nodding towards Melicent, who still looked pale and
" We have all reason for congratulation," said
Miles, walking round the table to sit by the girl and
take her hand. "Try and cheer up, Melicent.
Bad as things have been, we have much cause to be
thankful. If your uncle had lived he would have
met with a worse fate."
" Yes ! I'm glad that he had the courage to kill
himself," she said faintly ; " although it sounds
horrible to say so."
" Well, Miss Hurst," Jupp reached for the mar-
malade as he spoke, " I'm glad for yoiu* sake that
he killed himself, as it would have been disagreeable
for you to have a relative hanged. But I'm sox-ry
for my own. The case would have made a sensation
had he been tried for the two murders."
" I don't know what greater sensation you ex-
pected it to make," said Miles, raising his eyebrows.
" The village is crowded with people from all quarters
and your men can hardly keep them out of the park.
THE WHOLE TRUTH. 313
However, let us hope it will only be a nine days'
wonder, and that soon Grenacer will quieten down."
" It won't quieten down until the inquest is held
on Mrs. Print and on the remains we have found of
Hurst," said the Inspector. " He blew himself up,
and the image along with him, very thoroughly."
" Oh, don't ! " murmured Melicent, turning white.
" Sorry, Miss Hurst," said Jupp, who was really
good-natured, " my tongue runs awa}?- with me at
times. I think, if you don't mind my offering
advice, that you should leave this place for a time,"
" She will leave it with me when we are married,"
said the barrister ; " and while we are away the
Sanctuary can be put right."
" How put right ? " asked Jupp, rising from the
" All the remaining trees will be pulled down, the
walls will be levelled to the ground, and when the
ruins are removed we will plant a garden there. I
suggest doing this if you will agree, Melicent."
" Oh, yes! " she said, the colour returning to her
face. " I want to see the whole place changed.
i3ut tell me, Mr. Jupp, what's to be done now ? "
" Nothing that need worry you," said the In-
spector kindly. " Try and rest after all your
trouble, Miss Hurst. I'll arrange all about the
inquests, and settle things. Lady Gibson and her
daughter return to town to-day as there is no need
for them to stay here. Mam'zel Clarice, the doctor
says, is getting well, and will be able to go away hi a
" I intend to give her a good sum of money with
which to return to Paris and find employment,"
said Melicent, flushing. " I'm sorry for the poor
" So am I, as sorry as I am for Mrs. Print. Botli
thoie women suffered much at the hands of your
314 THE BLACK IMAGE.
uncle. Extraordinary," mused Jupp, pinching his
" WTiat is extraordinary ? " asked Miles, surprised.
" The way in which that man changed. I knew
him well for years and he was always a student, shut
up in his library. A quiet, harmless creature."
" Scarcely, Jupp. All the time he was pretending
to be a harmless creature he was married to that
poor woman and was plotting how to get rid of his
brother, secure the property and marry Miss Gibson."
" Quite so," said Jupp, then fixed his eyes on
Melicent : " Do you really think that he arranged
those accidents. Miss Hurst, so as to get rid of
you ? "
" Yes." Melicent clasped her hands. " Jum told
me. I went to see him this morning, and he is much
better after a night's sleep, although still weak."
" Curious he should be so, since he told me he had
taken food to the cave before he inveigled Hurst
"It's the shock and the horror of the whole busi-
ness that has weakened him, Mr. Jupp. But he said
that Uncle Ralph told him to buy a pea-shooter and
peas, and then told him to come up the stairs, where
he playfully made a snatch at the bag and scattered
" Who snatched — Jum or your uncle ? "
" Uncle Ralph. He pretended that he wanted the
bag, and snatched. It burst and the peas were
scattered. Uncle Ralph said that Jum needn't pick
them up, and Jum suspected his motive. So did
Mrs. Frint, and they watched over me. I slipped
on the landing at the top of the stairs and saved
myself. But if I had tried to come down Jum would
have prevented me."
" Why didn't he warn you ? "
" Mrs. Frint wouldn't let him lest I should suspect
THE WHOLE TRUTH. 315
Uncle Ralph and get him into trouble. She wanted
to save him, as he vras her husband, but she always
intended to save me also."
"Hum, I see! And the fallen branch of the
elm ? "
" That was sawn through, Jum says. When
Uncle Ralph pretended to go to the vicarage he
really was in the wood behind me holding a string
attached to the branch. As soon as I was seated
he pulled the string and the branch came down.
But Jum, who was watching, saved me."
" Yes, I remember," said Miles, deeply interested.
" And then your uncle came running round the
corner to scold you for sitting under the tree ; to
remove the string, I suppose, and have the fallen
branch cut up."
" He did more than that," said the girl with a
shudder. " He climbed the tree himself after dusk
and splintered the sawn branch — that is, the place
where he had sawn the branch off."
" Well, you've had narrow escapes, Miss Hurst,"
said Jupp, " and should be glad that your uncle is
dead. Jum ought to be rewarded. I'd do some-
thing for the boy myself, if needs be, for I suspected
him wrongly He was on our side all the time."
" He was," said Darch positivel}'. " His pre-
tended reconciliation with Hurst was only to get
friendly with him again so that he could watch him
< asily. We owe a lot to Jum, and I shall repay him
by getting him into a lawyer's office. He wants to
be a solicitor."
" And he'll make a good one," said Jupp heartily.
" More power to his elbow."
The next week was a busy one. The inquests were
held ; the body of Mrs. Print and what remained of
her wicked husband were buried, and after long
and picturesque accounts of the hnal pliases of the
3x6 THE BLACK IMAGE.
Black Image mystery appeared in many papers, the
excitement died down. Tbie tide of human life that
had flooded Grenacer receded and the village was
left to its somnolent existence. Yet it was less
somnolent than of yore, for the late excitement had
awakened the population to life, and they took
greater interest in the world beyond their borders.
But they did not wish to have another shaking up
of the same kind. The crimes of Ralph Hurst, and
the legend of the statue, were enough to serve them
with food for gossip year in and year out for many
a long day.
Sylvia and Toby were married almost immediately,
as Uncle George insisted that the ceremony should
take place as soon as possible. Lady Gibson was
quite willing, e\-en before she knew of the income
which Toby was to have, for late events had rendered
her much more reasonable and sensible. But it was
a great relief to her vrhen Uncle George generously
paid her debts and arranged that she should be
allowed a certain 3'early income. Tahinos came
forward again to court Sylvia, but Lady Gibson
would not hear of any one becoming her son-in-law
but Toby, to whom she had taken a great fancy.
With a splendid income, a charming wife, and his
own talents, which were considerable, Toby set up
practice in Harley Street, and bid fair to become
quite a famous and fashionable doctor. The young
couple were very happy, and were always grateful
to Uncle George, who continued to act the fairy-
godfather on all and every occasion. And Lady
Gibson was likewise agreeable and complimentary,
growing prouder and prouder of her children and
grandchildren as the years went by. Adversity had
done her good.
In due time, also, Melicent became Mrs. Darch.
She and Miles were married in the A'illage church,
THE WHOLE TRUTH. 317
and Jum was conspicuous at the wedding. The boy
was sent by the 3^oung couple to school for a few
years, and from thence it was intended he should be
taken to London and placed in a solicitor's office.
So Jum's future was assured, for Melicent thought
that she could not do enough for him, seeing that he
had saved her life. But once Jum was settled as a
respectable member of society, under his o^^•n name
of Frederick Marr, Melicent shunned talking of the
past. Along with her husband she went for a long
tour round the world, and it was quite two years
before they returned to the Hall. Then the villagers
welcomed them with flags and flowers, with addresses
and many compliments, rejoiced to have their Lady
of the Manor back in their midst. Miles, who had
lived so long in Grenacer, was also a great favourite,
and the reign of the new rural king and queen pro-
mised to be glorious and peaceful. During their
i>.bsence the house had been redecorated and the
grounds put to rights. So thus it came about that
after dinner Mr. and Mrs. Darch stood at the door
of the late Squire's study looking, not at the Sanc-
tuary with its gloomy yews and grim Black Image,
but at a circle of quick-growing trees, through the
branches of which couM be seen the gleam of the
river. And there were smooth green lawns and beds
of roses in full bloom, so that the place looked like
a fairyland. Melicent said so, and her husband
" It is a place of life now," he said, with his arm
round her waist. " It was a place of death when we
" Don't talk of it," cried Mrs. Darch with a shiver.
" I never wish to recall that horrible image."
" Yet, if the statue had not been blown up, I doubt
if you would have consented to its removal," said
3iS THE BLACK IMAGE.
" Perhaps not. All the same, I am glad it is gone.
It was built for an evil purpose, and brought nothing
" Well, it's gone, and has taken its evil with it.
Don't let us talk of the past, Melicent darling, but
look to the future. We have health, wealth and a
charming home, together with love, which is the
best thing of all. But we must not be idle, dearest.
You shall be the Lady Bountiful of the village, and
I shall go daily to London to renew my attempts to
be Lord Chancellor."
" So long as I have you," said Melicent, resting
her head against his breast, " it matters little what
3'ou are. Still, M-e must work."
" Of course. And see what a good omen that
golden sunset is for our future, dear. When we last
saw this place it was a heap of ruins under a dark
and dismal sky. Now it is glorious with colour and
splendid with golden light."
" And the Black Image was "
" Not a v/ord about that horrible statue," said
Miles, stopping her mouth with a kiss. " Come to
the drawing-room and let us talk of our future.
Sylvia and Toby are happy ; Jum is happy. Let
us be happy also."
" I always am with you," said Melicent, and then
they exchanged another kiss before re-entering
the house, leaving the rose-garden bathed in golden
splendour to wait for the coming shadows of night.
London : Ward, Lock & Co., Limited.
WARD, LOCK & CO.'S POPULAR FICTION
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
Mr. Oppenheim's stories are always deeply engrossing as novels
and are pure in style and practically faultless as literary wcrk.
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ality, and ingenuity in construction. Above all he is versatile.
THE POSTMASTER OF MARKET DEIGNTON.
THE PEER AND THE WOMAN.
MR. MARX'S SECRET.
JEANNE OF THE MARSHES.
THE LONG ARM.
A MAKER OF HISTORY.
THE MASTER MUMMER.
ANNA, THE ADVENTURESS.
THE YELLOW CRAYON.
A PRINCE OF SINNERS.
A LOST LEADER.
MR. V/INGRAVE, MILLIONAIRE.
AS A MAN LIVES.
A DAUGHTER OF THE MARIONIS.
THE MYSTERY OF MR. BERNARD BROWN.
THE MAN AND HIS KINGDOM.
THE WORLD'S GREAT SNARE.
A MONK OF CRUTA.
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E. PHILLIPS. OPPENHEIM (continued)—
MYSTERIOUS MR. SABIN.
A MILLIONAIRE OF YESTERDAY.
THE GREAT AWAKENING.
FOR THE QUEEN.
THOSE OTHER DAYS.
STANLEY J. WEYMAN
Author of " Under the Red Robe," etc.
MY LADY ROTHA.
A romantic historical novel.
FRED M. WHITE
A vivid, rapidly n^oving story in which mystery, strong charac-
terization, and criminality are skilfully blended, is always to be
found in all Mr. White's work.
A HARBOUR OF REFUGE.
THE SENTENCE OF THE COURT.
A ROYAL WRONG.
THE HOUSE OF MAMMON.
A SHADOWED LOVE.
THE POWERS OF DARKNESS.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH.
THE ENDS OF JUSTICE.
A SOCIETY JEZEBEL.
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